Class A day one gave us three expected results, and through two periods we were on the path to yet another, then suddenly Thief River Falls came out in the third period, laid five goals on Breck and shocked many with the 7-5 beating of the two-time champions.Good for the Prowlers. Will today see more of the same?
For a fabulous preview check out the Star Tribune's Hockey Hub
Oh, and there is a to watch the state tournament online
So without further ado, let's take a look at the opening day in Class AA
• Blaine (20-4-4) vs. Edina (No. 2 seed, 18-7-2), 11 am
• White Bear Lake (21-5-2) vs. Duluth East (No. 3, 22-5-0), 1 pm
• Lakeville North (13-14-1) vs. Eden Prairie (No. 1, 21-5-2), 6 pm
• Moorhead (18-7-2) vs. Eagan (No. 4, 20-6-2), 8 pm
This is the first time in years that there are no private schools in the AA tournament. Instead we see six metro-area teams including tournament regulars Blaine, Edina and Eden Prairie to add to the White Bear Lake Bears who upset top-ranked Hill-Murray in the section final. Joining them are St. Paul regulars Duluth East and Moorhead. Then we have Lakeville North, who, let's be honest, will be cannon fodder to the high-powered Eagles of Eden Prairie.
Follow us after the jump for a preview of each team
Blaine: Full disclosure here; Bryan went Blaine. I live in Blaine. Does that mean we're picking the Bengals to win, or even cheering for them? No. I went to Anoka and hope the Bengals get crushed, and let's just say Bryan's bitter.
Ok, that's out of the way. The Bengals are entering their seventh straight state tournament. Most experts didn't see Blaine getting past Maple Grove, but when it comes to tournament time, there's no denying the Bengals. No Nick Bjugstad, no problem, as Jonny Brodzinski amassed 52 points this season and led the Bengals all season. Sure, they have a great goaltender in Nick Malvin, but this is Brodzinski's team. He needs to put Blaine on his back in order to get past Edina and proceed down the right side of the bracket.
Edina: The Hornets have won 168 state tournaments, or at least that's what their fans would lead you to believe. The Cake Eaters are led by coach Curt Giles, are the defending champions and in their fifth straight state tournament. To say playing in St. Paul in March is old hat for the Hornets would be putting it lightly. It's title or nothing for Edina, and this season is no exception. This season say a losing streak in January, a lower than normal placement in conference play, but it just doesn't matter. They ran through the section tournament and since they returned most of the starters from last season's championship team, there's no reason to think Edina isn't going to challenge to repeat.
Duluth East (Thanks to Bruce Ciskie for this preview of the Hawks, check out The Ciskie Blog) This is a typical Duluth East team. They have high-end talent, a strong work ethic, goaltending, and one of the best coaches around in Mike Randolph. Dom Toninato, Jake Randolph, and Trevor Olson are the top line, and they're one of the best lines you'll see in high school hockey. Olson scored the game-winner in the section final win over Grand Rapids off a brilliant feed by Randolph from behind the net. JoJo Jeanetta has plenty of experience in goal, and the Greyhounds can really control the puck well. Ask Grand Rapids, because they had to deal with the puck in their zone for most of the last eight minutes of the section final. East tied that game 1-1 with 90 seconds left before winning it less than 30 seconds into overtime. Mike Randolph also showed he isn't afraid to let his top players decide a game, because Toninato, Jake Randolph, and Olson were on the ice for most of the last eight minutes. Then they started the overtime. If I'm White Bear Lake, I'm making sure someone else beats me, if I can get those three off the ice.
White Bear Lake: Let's be honest, we're all surprised that the Bears are here. Sure, the section final is almost always Hill-Murray vs. White Bear Lake, but this season was supposed to be the Pioneers' title to lose (especially since Hill-Murray had beaten the Bears in 14 straight games), and lose they did. Sure, the Bears are a team and put forth a whole-team effort every night in order to win, but this is the State Tourney. White Bear Lake is 0-17 on day one of the tournament and there's no reason to think this year will be any different.
Lakeville North: A sub-.500 team and having to face Eden Prairie in the opening round? Sounds like a daunting task. Well, when you have a goaltender like Charlie Lindgren who put up a .905 save percentage on a sub-.500 team you have the kind of guy around whom a team can rally, and rally they have. In addition to Lindgren, Lakeville North relies on Blake Winiecki to provide the offense. With 42 points, he has almost double the scoring of #2 scorer Charlie Hayes. So, if Lakeville has a chance, they will have to ride Lindgren and Winiecki.
Eden Prairie: The Eagles are the top ranked team in the tournament and for good reason. Led by Kyle Rau (brother of Wild prospect Chad Rau), Eden Prairie has been on top all season, and remember, this is a senior class who were 10 sophomores when they won the state tournament two seasons ago. They've been there, they've played a ridiculous schedule and have been dominating all year. Coach Lee Smith has created a powerhouse, and this may be his best team to date. Eden Prairie can be beaten, as their five losses prove, but can anyone in St. Paul match their firepower? Unlikely.
Moorhead: The Spuds aren't exactly playing firewagon hockey, but their defensive skills have been their backbone. Goaltender Michael Bitzer's .930 save percentage is impressive, and the team in front of him plays the body, keeps shots out of high percentage areas and plays a solid breakout. They aren't flashy, they aren't pretty, but they get the job done and could prove a problem for teams used to a wide-open game.
Eagan: The Wildcats played a fantastic game in their 1-0 section final win over Apple Valley, and coming out of the South Suburban conference, have played a tough schedule and battled their way through the season. This is a team living in Apple Valley's shadow. The biggest question is whether they can regroup after the emotional high after beating the Eagles. This junior-heavy team is playing in only their second ever state tournament (the other being in 2006), so they could be affected by the pressure of the tournament unlike six of the other teams here. can they get past the jitters and keep Moorhead from getting an early lead to even get past the first round?
So there you have it, the eight Class AA teams fighting for the state championship. Who do you choose?