With the fall season coming to a close and temperatures across the state plummeting, eyes turn to winter sports — including boys' hockey. And from start to finish, this season's schedule is chalked full of quality matchups.
On Nov. 21, the season kicks off with five games, including a Big 9 Conference tilt between Northfield and Faribault. Both teams finished in the middle of the Big 9 standings a season ago, so an early season victory could help one of these teams take a step toward's claiming a league crown.
Also on opening night, Andover visits Blake for a nonconference showdown. The Huskies were a standout team a season ago, finishing atop the Northwest Suburban Conference standings and being in the state coaches' association's top-10 rankings throughout the year, but their season was halted with a 4-3 loss to Duluth East in the Class 2A, Section 7 championship game. Blake, meanwhile, stumbled with a 4-2 defeat to Edina in the Class 2A, Section 6 semifinals, giving both teams plenty of motivation to get the new season started with a win.
Twenty-three games will be played on Nov. 22, headlined by a Turkey Trot tournament matchup between defending Class 2A state champion Edina and Maple Grove. Also scheduled, East Grand Forks will trek to the west metro to face Orono in a clash of Class 1A contenders.
The month closes with a meeting on Nov. 30 between Class 1A, Section 2 foes Delano and Breck. Last year, Delano topped Breck 2-0 in the section championship game to advance to the Class 1A state tournament, where the Tigers lost 6-4 to Greenway in a quarterfinal matchup.
More rivalry games pop up on the schedule as we inch closer to the new year. On Dec. 17, White Bear Lake and Hill-Murray renew their east metro and Class 2A, Section 4 rivalry. When they last played each other, the Bears defeated the Pioneers 3-2 en route to a state tournament berth. On Dec. 21, Lake Conference foes Eden Prairie and Edina battle at the Holiday Classic in their first meeting since last season's Class 2A state final, which the Hornets won 3-2 in overtime.
Between Christmas and New Year's Day, teams across the state will play in a variety of holiday tournaments. One of the biggest tournaments has a new name as the Schwan Cup is now known as the Herb Brooks Holiday Classic. This year's installment will take place at the National Sports Center in Blaine from Dec. 26 to Dec. 28.
When the calendar flips to January, Hermantown, which looks to return to prominence after missing last year's Class 1A tourney after being a regular tournament fixture in recent years, will step into the spotlight on two occasions. On Jan. 3, the Hawks will face St. Cloud Cathedral, which has participated in three of the last four Class 1A state tournaments. Then, on Jan. 14, Hermantown travels to Greenway to face the Raiders, who upset the Hawks 3-2 in the Class 1A, Section 7 final a season ago.
Once again, high school teams will participate in Hockey Day Minnesota. This year, the event is happening on Jan. 18 at an outdoor rink that will be constructed adjacent to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Two boys' games will take place as Warroad takes on Minneapolis, and Blaine duels Blake.
The regular season comes to an end Feb. 15 with 27 matchups scheduled. With programs deep into conference play and looking for section playoff tuneups, a lot will likely be on the line, including in the metro with Minnetonka and Edina going at it in a Lake battle while Andover takes on Blaine in a Northwest Suburban showdown.
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