Now that we're officially into the playoffs in the run up to the state tournament, there's really no need for a top ten ranking, so we'll just jump right in. The sectional quarterfinals are usually a pretty bland affair with a lot of lopsided blowouts, but this year has already produced more big upsets than I can remember in some time. After the jump, we'll look at some of those upsets, and preview the upcoming section finals for the right to go to St. Paul for the state tournament.
Section 7AA #6 Forest Lake 3 #3 Grand Rapids 2- Forest Lake had a disappointing season in the parity-driven Suburban East Conference, but played up to their potential here by knocking off Grand Rapids, who was a bit of a trendy pick to pull off an upset of their own and make it to the state tournament. From top seed Duluth East's perspective, one of the three teams to play them within one goal is out of the tournament, while a team they beat 9-0 in the regular season is still in.
Section 6AA #7 Robbinsdale Armstrong 2 #2 Eden Prairie 1-This was far and away the biggest upset of the tournament so far. Eden Prairie outshot Armstrong 50-16, but Armstrong got a great goaltending performance from Michael Greenberg. The 6AA semifinals were supposed to have four of the top ten teams in the state, but the bracket looks much different now.
Section 3AA #7 East Ridge 3 #2 Apple Valley 2 (3OT)- Section 3AA was due for some craziness because after top seed Eagan, nobody was particularly strong, and that played out with Eagan being the only higher seed to win their quarterfinal match-up. The highlight of the three upsets was East Ridge's thrilling triple overtime win over Apple Valley.
Section 5AA #6 Anoka 2 #3 Centennial 1- Anoka was a team whose results always seemed less than the talent they actually had, and I always felt they were due to surprise someone, if you can call Centennial underachieving in the sectional tournament a surprise anymore.
Section 1A #7 Albert Lea 2 #2 New Prague 1 (3OT)-Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom doesn't get nearly the notoriety he deserves for what he's accomplished over his long, distinguished career. This is a nice upset win for his team.
Games of the Week
Wednesday February 29th, Marriuci Arena, Section 6AA Final 6pm, Section 2AA Final 8pm
Ask any hockey fan in Minnesota and they'll usually tell you this is the best night of hockey the state has to offer. The finals of what is tradtionally two of the strongest sections in the state, and in recent years, it has produced some classic games.
Thursday March 1st, Rochester Rec Center, Section 1AA Final 7pm
It's looking like it will be another match-up of the two Lakeville schools for a trip to the state tournament. The winner is likely to be the weakest team at the state tournament, but that doesn't take any of the emotion out of the section final.
Friday March 2nd, State Fairgrounds Coliseum, Section 4AA Final 6pm, Section 5AA Final 8pm
The 4AA seems likely to be another match-up of the classic Hill-Murray/White Bear Lake rivalry. Section 5AA is shaping up to be Maple Grove's best, and possibly last shot for a while at breaking up Blaine's dominance in the section.