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Stage is set for state tourney

By Michael Rand, Star Tribune, 03/05/11, 9:37PM CST


Huge section upsets lead to unlikely seeds

Pairings for both classes of the boys’ hockey state tournament, which begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday with the Class 1A quarterfinals, were announced Saturday morning — and Duluth East stuck out as the clear winner. While Eden Prairie (No. 1) and Edina (No. 2) claimed the top two seeds in Class 2A and Eagan (No. 4) was the last of the four seeded teams, the Greyhounds couldn’t be happier.

Not only did Duluth East narrowly escape in Thursday’s section final against Grand Rapids with a tying goal late in regulation and an overtime winner, but when Hill-Murray was upset by White Bear Lake and Maple Grove lost to Blaine in Friday’s section finals, it likely vaulted the Greyhounds from unseeded to No. 3.

“Everyone picked Hill-Murray to beat White Bear Lake. And if Maple Grove wins that game, we probably wouldn’t have had a seed,” Greyhounds head coach Mike Randolph said. “There were three teams we didn’t want to face in the first round: Hill-Murray, Eden Prairie and Edina. … But if you get the seed, you at least avoid the chance of having to play that kind of game in the first round of the tournament.”

Instead, the Greyhounds will face White Bear Lake — a squad Randolph still fears particularly because the Bears are brimming with confidence but a team Duluth East defeated earlier this season.

Blaine, making its sixth consecutive state tournament appearance, got perhaps the toughest seeding news. Not only did the Bengals not get a seed — at 20-4-4 and with a victory over Duluth East during the season, they could make a case for one — but they also drew a tough Edina squad in the first Class 2A quarterfinal at 11 a.m. Thursday. Eden Prairie drew Lakeville North, which defeated rival Lakeville South in a triple-overtime thriller Friday, while Eagan gets Moorhead.

Randolph called Eden Prairie “the best team in the state,” but Eagles coach Lee Smith said he wasn’t sure his squad would get the No. 1 seed over Edina even after Hill-Murray missed the tournament.

“The field is still unreal,” Smith said. “I think there are some great matchups.”

Class 1A

It’s no surprise that St. Thomas Academy — the 2006 and ’08 champion back in the tournament after a two-year absence — grabbed the No. 1 seed. Of note, though, is that Breck, which has won the past two Class 1A titles, is the No. 4 seed this year.

That means the teams that have accounted for four of the past five 1A state titles could meet in the semifinals. St. Thomas Academy must first get past New Ulm, while Breck would need to defeat Thief River Falls.

Kicking off the entire tournament is No. 2 Hermantown vs. Alexandria at 11 a.m. Wednesday, followed by No. 3 Rochester Lourdes vs. Hibbing.

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