By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The snow may have forced hundreds of schools and businesses to close, but it won’t stop Minnesota’s signature pastime.

The state girls’ high school hockey tournament is in full force in St. Paul, and this year, it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary.

It’s the state of hockey. Do you think a little snow is going to keep the girls’ state hockey tournament from getting underway? Heck, no.

Mound Westonka’s theme for the game was, what else, Hawaii. The school’s boys’ hockey team sported shorts and shades.

Mound Westonka student Ethan Vandenheuvel said, “We are here for our girls, Mound Westonka, hoping to take No. 1.”

Mankato fans had a tough drive to get to their 1 p.m. game.

Mankato East student Marley Sundermeyer said, “I have a couple of girls in my grade who are playing today.”

Neal and Carolyn Johnson’s daughter Julia is on the Fergus Falls team. They caught a 7 a.m. bus to get to the 11 a.m. game. It’s normally a three-hour ride — but not Wednesday.

The Johnsons said the ride took about four hours, but it was worth it.

”We were looking at driving, but we looked at the forecast, and well, the bus was a much better option,” they said.

Metro area schools had plans to bus students to the games, but with schools cancelled, diehard fans drove or asked for help.

“My dad drove us because the roads are so dangerous right now,” said Breck fan Nina Eyres. “I am excited and I want to support my school.”

And in the end, as the snow fell outside, girls hockey blazed inside. Brilliant moments made the snowy ride worth it for players and fans alike.

Wednesday’s evening games are going to go on as scheduled, with St. Paul United facing Warroad. The late game puts Rochester Lourdes against Proctor Hermantown.

Esme Murphy