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State tournament features familiar powers returning after absence

By David La Vaque, Star Tribune, 03/03/18, 9:30PM CST


Though stacked with tradition-rich programs, the Class 2A boys’ hockey state tournament field feels oddly fresh.

Minnetonka's Dylan Heiam

Though stacked with tradition-rich programs, the Class 2A boys’ hockey state tournament field feels oddly fresh.

Minnetonka, seeded No. 1 by coaches Saturday, last appeared in 2010. No. 2 Edina, No. 3 Duluth East and Lakeville North haven’t skated in March at Xcel Energy Center since 2015. That’s one year more recently than No. 5 seed Centennial’s last trip.

Each of those programs, plus No. 4 seed St. Thomas Academy, were favorites in their respective sections. Even the teams that pulled upsets — Hill-Murray and state tournament newcomer St. Michael-Albertville — were the second-highest-rated teams in their sections.

That means no underdog story akin to Grand Rapids, which last year won its section as a No. 4 seed and then won the state tournament as a No. 5 seed.

“This field is really strong,” first-year Minnetonka coach Sean Goldsworthy said. “It’s a credit to how many good programs are developing good players.”

Minnetonka locked up the top seed by defeating Edina twice in three chances. The Hornets were a deserving No. 2, though Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said he thought his Greyhounds were a long shot for the second spot by virtue of winning at Minnetonka.

On Saturday morning, each head coach cast electronic votes for the other seven qualifying teams. The highest and lowest votes for each team were thrown out and the five teams with the lowest overall scores were awarded seeds. The remaining three teams were placed in the quarterfinals by blind draw.

For the third time in five years, the top seed gets a quarterfinal matchup with the team with the most losses. For the Skippers, that means a rematch with Hill-Murray (13-11-4).

The big-school portion of the tournament begins Thursday. The Class 1A tournament starts Wednesday. Two-time defending champion Hermantown is the No. 1 seed and sees last year’s title-game opponent, Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake, in the quarterfinals. Mahtomedi is No. 2, followed by Orono, Alexandria and Thief River Falls.

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