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Minnesota Boys' High School Hockey Tournament: Class A Preview

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The Section Finals are done, and the bracket has been set. There are 8 Class A teams left with one goal. Everyone will be picking one of the Big 3 (Hermantown, St. Thomas Academy, the Breck School), but in a one-loss scenario, any team can win on any given day. A hot goalie can drive a team to the State Final. A team that is peaking at just the right time can go on a run. It's easy to pick the favorite (especially if you're a stat-head), but upsets are why we play the game.

It's been a long season. There have been plenty of Study Guides handed out. In case you weren't doing your homework, make the jump with me as we recap the Section Winners in Class A.

Rochester Lourdes Eagles
Section 1A Champions
Final Record: 20-8-0
One of 10 Independent teams with no conference, the Rochester Lourdes will be making their 8th trip to the State Tournament. Led by Jason Samuelson and Alex Funk, the Eagles are an offensive-minded team, scoring just over 5 goals per game during the regular season. The Eagles had a major boost in their powerplay during the Section Tournament with a success rate of 40%. The Eagles also killed off the 7 penalties they took in the Section Tournament. Both trends will have to continue for the Eagles to make a run in the tournament. The Eagles have a 1-4 record against teams in the State Tournament, with their losses coming against Breck, St. Thomas Academy, Duluth Marshall, and Little Falls. The Eagles will need to elevate their game and get better goaltending if they want to be taking home the hardware.

The Breck School Mustangs
Section 2A Champions
Final Record: 24-3-1
The Mustangs won both the Tri-Metro Conference and the Section 2A Championship. Calling the Mustangs an offensive team is an understatement. The Breck School averaged almost 10 goals a game during their Section Tournament. The offensive depth is there with young talents like Conor Andrle, Grant Opperman, Thomas Lindstrom, and Wesley Iverson. The concern has to be their defense. The penalty kill can be exploited, and goaltender Jack Kenney isn't playing his best hockey right now. As the quality of competition goes up, so does Kenney's GAA in dramatic escalation. If Kenney can right the ship and the offense continues to produce, then there's no reason why the Mustangs won't be a serious contender.

New Ulm Eagles
Section 3A Champions
Final Record: 17-11-0
The New Ulm Eagles are the only team to be in the Class A Tournament that wasn't ranked this season. The uphill climb got a little easier, as the Eagles drew against Thief River Falls and not one of the Big 3 to open the tournament, but that's not saying much. The Eagles will be relying heavily on leading scorer Brody Peterson and sophomore goalie Brach Kraus to get the job done. By pedigree and record alone, the New Ulm Eagles will probably have the toughest road ahead of them.

St. Thomas Academy Cadets
Section 4A Champions
Final Record: 23-5-0
The Cadets are without a doubt the best defensive team in Class A this year. While they're not as explosive as Breck or Hermantown, they won't give up a lot as far as scoring chances. Led by junior goalie David Zevnik, the Cadets will be using their defense as their backbone. Zevnik made 30 of 31 saves in the Section 4A Final against Totino-Grace. The offense just isn't there this year for St. Thomas Academy. None of the Cadets broke 40 points in the regular season. If they end up getting into a shootout with Breck or Hermantown, St. Thomas Academy can wave goodbye to their repeat aspirations.

Hermantown Hawks
Section 5A Champions
Final Record: 28-0
The undefeated Hawks have earned the #1 ranking in Class A for a reason. They can score a lot of goals, they're tough defensively, and both their powerplay and penalty kill are top-notch. The Hawks have gotten great goaltending from senior Matt Mensinger all year long. The biggest concern has to be offensive depth. The Hawks are led in scoring by Mr. Hockey candidate Jared Thomas, but after him there's a sizable drop off in offensive production. Hermantown is going to need depth scoring in order to bring their 2nd State Championship back to the Northland.

Little Falls Flyers
Section 6A Champions
Final Record: 19-9
The Flyers stumbled out of the gates, going 4-6 leading up to the Holiday Break; however, the Flyers rallied and came out of the break a much better team. Little Falls rattled off 12-straight wins to put themselves back in the Class A conversation. The Flyers haven't been to the State Tournament since 2009, so they're not exactly an experienced group. They will need a great tournament from leading scorer Joey Hanowski and goalie Michael Stumpf if they want to claim their 1st State Championship.

Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers
Section 7A Champions
Final Record: 21-7
Judd Peterson is the heart and soul of this Hilltoppers squad. Like Jared Thomas of Hermantown, Peterson was a one-man show for Duluth Marshall. His 74 points were 33 more than the next highest scoring player on the team. The Hilltoppers also got very good goaltending from Christian Coffman, which will have to continue if Duluth Marshall wants to add their 1st Championship banner to the rafters at the Mars Lakeview Arena. Peterson will have to be at the top of his game, and the Hilltoppers will need better secondary scoring if they plan on being the last Class A team standing.

Thief River Falls Prowlers
Section 8A Champions
Final Record: 22-4-2
The Prowlers started the season ranked #5 in Class A and finished the season at #4. They may not be a flashy team, but the Prowlers have been steady and consistent all year long. The Prowlers never had a losing streak, and 3 of the 4 losses were against AA teams. Riley Soderstrom will lead Thief River Falls offensively, but he will need help from his team in scoring. Goalie Jon Narverud has been a rock all year, and the Prowlers will need him to elevate his game to hang with some of the dynamic offenses in Class A.