ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s a week Minnesotans take great pride in — boys high school hockey finals week. More than 100,000 people will watch talented teenagers compete where the pros skate at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

For so many Minnesotans, in all different stages of life, this tournament is personal.

The state’s capital city is abuzz over the state’s trademark sport. Restaurants are bustling and the X is exploding with energy.

Amid the crowds of up to 20,000 at a time, there are some roles that make this week what it is.

There are of course “the winners.”

On Wednesday, Mahtomedi beat Mankato East by two. They were led by an excited coach, Jeff Poeschl, who was once in the tournament himself.

“Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier being a player, because you can actually do something about it,” he said.

And Wednesday, his players did.

“It’s pretty amazing being here, it’s a lifetime dream come true,” senior Dallas Duckson said.

But across the road at Tom Reid’s, the “state” dream was done for Mankato East. Grandparents Beth and Jay Baumgard coped with some beer and pickles.

East Mankato mom Amy Liffrig said after years together, the parents have formed a team of their own.

“You spend a lot of time with these guys, they become family,” she said.

And then there are the people who are just there to watch, like Andrew Erickson.

“I mean, this is the Minnesota high school state tournament. Come on, this is the best high school hockey in the nation,” he said.

And there’s a whole cast of important characters who strongly agree.

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