Warroad’s Grant Slukynsky (27) , the team’s leading scorer, crashed the net on a rush against Minneapolis in Hockey Day Minnesota game Jan. 18 at Parade Stadium in Minneapolis. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
It’s almost too bad the boys’ hockey state tournament seeds are chosen through electronic voting. Because the parity-filled brackets in both classes this year would have made for some inspired coaches’ presentations.
As Mark Manney, coach of Class 2A, No. 1 seed Andover, put it, “Most of the coaches who ended up with a seed could make a case they should have been seeded higher or that they shouldn’t have been seeded at all.”
Gerrit van Bergen, coach of Class 1A, No. 5 seed Delano, echoed Manney’s thoughts.
“You could move any of the top three teams in our class around,” said van Bergen, who also thought his team had “a legit chance at being the No. 4 seed.”
Hockey observers have seen this coming throughout a tumultuous season for favored teams. Class 2A teams played hot potato with the No. 1 ranking throughout the season.Uncertainty continued in the section playoffs, where two top seeds were eliminated.
Elk River forward Zach Michaelis (9) tried to slow down Andover defender Mitchell Wolfe (4) in the first period Thursday in the Class 2A, Section 7 final in Duluth. Photo: ALEX KORMANN • email@example.com
In addition, the results of regular season games played between state tournament qualifying teams didn’t provide clear answers. Hill-Murray went 4-0-1 against the Class 2A field, yet took the No. 5 seed behind No. 3 Eden Prairie, which posted a 0-2-1 tournament field record. Moorhead, a team the Pioneers recently defeated, received the No. 4 seed. Hill-Murray also defeated No. 2 seed Blake.
But then, a coach’s voting logic is all his own. On Saturday morning, 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.
“On paper, this is a competitive tournament,” Manney said. “As a fan, I’d be excited to go. I think the seeding turned out the way it should. But if the higher-seeded teams lose, it shouldn’t be a real surprise.”
Class 1A also teems with intrigue, starting at the top. No. 1 seed Warroad makes its first state tournament appearance since 2010. No. 2 seed St. Cloud Cathedral, the defending state champions, defeated Andover. No. 3 seed Hermantown defeated Hill-Murray. And No. 4 seed Mahtomedi defeated two Class 2A tournament teams in Hill-Murray and St. Thomas Academy.
“What’s super exciting for me to see is the Class 2A teams and the traditional elite teams in 1A playing each other more often during the season,” van Bergen said.
Even the unseeded teams in Class 1A offer reason for anticipation. Mankato East and Monticello have made recent state tournament appearances and won’t be easy outs.
“And Hutchinson is good, too,” said van Bergen, whose Delano team pulled out victories by 2-1 and 3-1 scores in two meetings this season.
“There’s a lot of excitement for this group of teams,” van Bergen said. “I don’t think you’ll see any blowouts.”