Eden Prairie players, including goaltender Axel Rosenlund (30), celebrated their 3-1 victory over Holy Family in the section finals on Feb, 27 at 3M Arena at Mariucci. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky ¥ email@example.com
Boys’ hockey state tournament team seedings were set via Saturday morning conference call and Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith listened to the roll call of Class 2A quarterfinal matchups.
When No. 5 seed Duluth East against No. 4 seed St. Thomas Academy came first, Smith assumed his Eagles did not get a seed and were instead randomly selected to face one of the top three teams. Instead, Smith was pleased to hear his team, with a 17-9-2 record, received the No. 3 seed.
“We were lucky to be as high as three,” Smith said. “On the other hand, five of our losses were to Edina and Minnetonka, and we beat or tied five of the tournament teams.”
Eden Prairie benefited from a field in which most coaches considered Edina and Blaine the top two seeds and felt Lakeville South (14-12-1) should go without. Each of those scenarios played out as expected. Meanwhile, the other five teams had arguments for several placements.
The Class 2A quarterfinals take place Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. Class 1A quarterfinals are Wednesday.
No. 1 Edina drew Moorhead and No. 2 Blaine faces White Bear Lake. Despite a strong record, the Bears (21-4-1) sit opposite of Eden Prairie on the luck spectrum. Coach Tim Sager isn’t making it an issue.
“It would have been nice to be seeded but it’s better to be one of the only eight teams in Class 2A to be practicing Monday,” Sager said.
Some might point to Eden Prairie’s opponent, a Lakeville South team with a losing record before the Section 1 playoffs, and conclude the Eagles doubled down on good fortune. Not so, Smith said.
“It might have meant something a few years ago when the Lakeville schools weren’t at the level they are now,” said Smith, whose team defeated the Cougars 7-4 on Jan. 31.
Each head coach cast electronic votes for the other seven qualifying teams. The highest and lowest votes for each team were excluded and the five teams with the lowest overall scores were awarded seeds. The remaining three teams were placed by blind draw.
In Class 1A, Mahtomedi secured the last tournament spot Friday night, by which time coach Jeff Poeschl already felt the field was something special. Two teams — the Minnesota River Bulldogs and North Branch — are new to the tournament. And Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin broke Hermantown’s five-year monopoly in Section 7 to return to its first tournament since 2001.
“It’s great to have so many new teams,” said Poeschl, whose team is the No. 1 seed and the only one to return from last season. The Zephyrs face New Ulm in the quarterfinals. No. 2 St. Cloud Cathedral plays North Branch, No. 3 East Grand Forks sees Minnesota River and No. 4 Greenway matches up with No. 5 Delano.