Hill-Murray Pioneers vs. Maple Grove Crimson
Start Time - 11:00 AM
The Pioneers must play smart, positional hockey if they want to have a chance in this game. The Crimson move the puck way too well to be caught chasing. Hill-Murray will have to be in passing lanes and have their guys in check through the entire play. If the Pioneers get sloppy with their coverage in any of the three zones, Maple Grove is going to exploit it.
The biggest key for Maple Grove is to keep the butterflies and jitters down. Having the first game of Session 3 might be working against Maple Grove's favor. The players need to keep their emotions and game under control. If they try to do too much or are playing out of control, they open the door for Hill-Murray to exploit mistakes. If the Crimson can just play the steady game that has gotten them to the State Tournament, then they should be fine. If they get caught up in the lights, camera, and surreal surroundings of Xcel, then it could be a long game for the Crimson.
Moorhead Spuds vs. Eagan Wildcats
Start Time - 1:00 PM
The Spuds have to play the body as often as possible. The Wildcats are a fast and skilled team that want to get the puck moving north. The Spuds have to make it tough for Eagan to enter the zone. Being positioned well in the neutral zone and making Eagan pay a price to make a play is how Moorhead can take the Wildcats off their game. Moorhead teams in the past have been strong skating and physical teams, and this Spuds squad can't be the exception. If they get caught in a run-and-gun game, then the top line of Eagan will blow Moorhead out of Xcel.
The Wildcats have to get dirty in front of Michael Bitzer. Merchant has a deadly shot, but if Bitzer can see it, he's going to stop it. There have to be screens and deflections in front of Bitzer. The top line can use their skill to get Bitzer moving, but the 2nd and 3rd lines of Eagan are going to have to get pucks on net and go to work finding rebounds. If Eagan just puts clear shots on Bitzer that he can see, then the Spuds goalie could be powering Moorhead past Eagan in the quarterfinals.
Class AA bracket found here.