Blaine (No. 4, 22-5-1) vs. Eden Prairie (No. 5, 18-9), 8 p.m. Thursday
Scouting Blaine: First-year head coach Chris Carroll knew establishing an identity at a program accustomed to success was paramount. Carroll held players to high standards, creating a mental toughness that propelled Blaine to its first state tournament since a six-year run ended in 2011. “When we lost 15 seniors from last year, nobody thought we’d be that good,” Carroll said. “But the guys in that room wanted to be classified as elite so they had to earn it.” Senior Easton Brodzinski leads the team with 31 goals, just ahead of Riley Tufte and Luke Notermann (27 each).
Scouting Eden Prairie: Sophomore Casey Mittelstadt verbally committed to the Gophers before his first varsity shift. Making good on his immense potential, he scored both Eden Prairie goals in the Section 6 final. “We had him at wing to start the year, but as the season progressed, he got so good defensively that we thought we better move him back into the middle,” Eagles coach Lee Smith said. “It allows him to go all over the rink. He’s good at generating his own offense. I can’t say enough good things about what he’s done.” Mittelstadt leads the Eagles in goals with 24 and assists with 26. Junior Michael Graham, who has committed to Minnesota Duluth, is close behind with 23 goals and 23 assists.
Worth knowing: Blaine is on a 16-0-1 run dating to Jan 2.
DAVID LA VAQUE