Heading into the 68th boys' hockey state tournament, here are 10 things you might not know:
All 10 of the Minnesota Minute Men Mr. Hockey finalists will play at the X: Justin Kloos (Lakeville South), Will Merchant (Eagan), Grant Opperman (Breck), Judd Peterson (Duluth Marshall), Jake Randolph (Duluth East), Charlie Sampair (Hill-Murray), Eric Schurhamer (St. Thomas Academy), Jared Thomas (Hermantown), Dom Toninato (Duluth East) and Michael Zajac (Eagan). Both of the senior goaltenders up for the Frank Brimsek Award will be in the nets: Michael Bitzer (Moorhead) and Kyle Koop (Maple Grove).
A potential semifinal showdown looms in Class 1A featuring No. 2 seed St. Thomas Academy and No. 3 seed Breck -- metro-area private schools that have won five of the past six small-school state titles.
Five of the past Class 1A championship games have featured some combination of four teams in this tournament: Breck, Duluth Marshall, Hermantown and St. Thomas Academy.
All four quarterfinal matchups in Class 2A mark the first meeting of those two teams this season, excluding preseason scrimmages.
Two teams reached the tournament without history or strong odds in their corner. Maple Grove is the only team in either class making its state debut. The only team not ranked No. 1 in its section to advance is Benilde- St. Margaret's, a No. 3 seed.
In five years of seeding teams 1 through 4 and assigning their opponents by blind draw, unseeded Class 1A teams have gone only 2-18 in quarterfinal games. In Class 2A, unseeded teams are 6-14 in the quarterfinals.
Duluth East, Duluth Marshall and Hermantown high schools are within 15 miles of each other. Duluth East coach Mike Randolph was a standout center at Marshall, then called Duluth Cathedral. Hermantown coach Bruce Plante played goalie at Cloquet, only a half-hour drive southwest on Interstate 35.
Four Duluth East players are descendants of Minnesota Duluth hockey alumni: Dom Toninato (father Jim), Conner Valesano (father Mike), Meirs Moore (father Skeeter) and Steven Holappa (grandfather Frank).
Maple Grove makes its state tournament debut, but coach Gary Stefano has been here before. He coached Park Center to the Tier I tournament in 1993 and lost in the quarterfinals to Hill-Murray -- the Crimson's opponent Thursday.
Can't get tickets? No sweat. KSTC-TV, Ch. 45, will televise all championship-round games live. Televised games also will be streamed live and free at www.Prep45.com.
DAVID LA VAQUE
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