David La Vaque has covered all but one state hockey tournament game since 2009 and has worked as a Star Tribune high school sports reporter since 2004. His favorite tournament experiences include cheering for alma mater St. Paul Johnson in 1991 and staying for most of the Apple Valley/Duluth East marathon semifinal game in 1996. Loren Nelson has covered every state tournament since 2009 as the national media editor for Sport Ngin. He attended many, many other Tourney games as a high schooler from the far northern reaches of Minnesota making the annual pilgrimage south to the old St. Paul Civic Center in the 1980s.
The state Class 2A tournament's top four teams, including Minnetonka and St. Thomas Academy, separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the regular season. Photo by Loren Nelson, legacyhockeyphotography.net
The most compelling state tournament field in a decade -- this collection of Class 2A teams earns that distinction.
Let’s start with some objective data. The top four seeds, No. 1 Minnetonka, No. 2 Edina, No. 3 Duluth East and No. 4 St. Thomas Academy, held the same rankings in last week’s Let’s Play Hockey coaches poll.
This quartet lost a combined eight games all season, often against one another. Both Edina losses came at Minnetonka’s hand. The Skippers two losses: Edina and Duluth East. One of St. Thomas Academy's losses? Minnetonka.
That elevates these teams into select status. They’ve proved their mettle against each other in a way teams across the state can’t match.
And you’ve got everything a state tournament needs, a public and private school "villain" (Edina and St. Thomas Academy), a northern team (the Hounds) and a strong Minnetonka team led by Sean Goldsworthy, the son of a flamboyant, popular North Stars player (Bill Goldsworthy).
And now a little history. The Minnesota State High School League began designating the top-four seeds since 2007. One year later, a fantastic four graced the Xcel Energy Center ice: defending champion Roseau, a unbeaten squad led by Aaron Ness, a loaded Edina team featuring Anders Lee and Zach Budish among many others, a Benilde-St. Margaret’s team making its big-school tournament debut and long-respected Hill-Murray.
Just like this year, those teams entered the tournament with a combined eight losses. Incidentally, Hill-Murray, the No. 4 seed, won it all.
Honorable mentions to the 2012 tournament, where the top four seeds lost a combined 11 games (and all four suffered upset losses in quarterfinals). Benilde-St. Margaret’s, inspired by fallen teammate Jack Jablonski, won the title. And the 2015 tournament. Losses among the top four: 10, a lower number aided by undefeated Lakeville North and a one-loss Edina team.