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High School Highlight: The Final 8

We have our Section Champions and look forward to the exciting week that is the State Hockey Tournament.

Welcome back Wilderness Nation!  Quite a bit has happened since last week as most of our State Tournament Contestants have punched their tickets.  Just a few more games left until the tournament starts next week on March 4th

A great thing happened while I was watching the Hermantown Hawks and the Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers battle for the 7A Section championship.  There is just something about Sections and State that brings a kind of energy that is usually absent from most High School Games.  Towards the end of the game almost every shot or scrum brings cries from the student section and a different kind of intensity.  In that game Hermantown played exactly the same game they have been playing in their last 22 games, a consistent pressure throughout the game with a stifling defense.  Marshall came out hot and tried to put Hermantown on their heels, but Hermantown weathered the storm.  Despite not scoring during a 5 minute power play, Hermantown managed 4 goals and kept Marshall off the board to head back to State, hoping for their first championship since 2007.  In Hermantown’s way will be the team that beat them in the finals last year, the champions from Section 8A East Grand Forks.  While they were pushed into overtime in their championship game against Thief River Falls, they avoided the upset and were another top team headed to the tournament.  While we are on the topic of upsets, the four seed from Section 6A St. Cloud Apollo not only beat the one seed Alexandria in the semi-finals, but then went on to beat the two seed St. Cloud Cathedral to be one of the surprise entrants in Class Single A.  In a series of one seeds to also hit the tournament New Prague took the Section 1A title over Northfield 2-1, Spring Lake took the Section 5A title in a dominant 5-0 victory over Chisago Lakes.  In Section 2A the one seed Breck beat the two seed Delano in an exciting 3-2 double overtime contest.  Section 4A had Mahtomedi pitted against the two seed St. Paul Academy.  Mahtomedi came into this game hot and continued its hot streak with a dominating 5-2 win.  Last but certainly not least we have the largest surprise to come out of the Section tournaments in which the offensive juggernaut in Luverne met their match in a surprising New Ulm team.  Luverne was almost thought by many to be a lock for the State Tournament, but their defensive weaknesses finally cost them as New Ulm was able to find the back of the net 7 times, and despite scoring 5 goals Luverne finds themselves on the outside looking in and will have to hope for a better result next year.

Class Double A brought a lot less excitement in the Section Tournaments than the Single A counterparts, as those who many thought were going to win did just that.  The one seeds almost ran the table and many by multiple goals.  In Section 1AA Lakeville North handily beat the three seed Farmington 6-1 in a game which looked exactly how one might think with a goal differential of that kind.  Lakeville North looks primed to make another run in the State Tournament.  One team that might give them a handful is the champions from Section 2AA Edina.  In another Double A contest that was just a one sided throw away game before State starts, Edina took down the number three seed Burnsville without breaking a sweat.  It’s hard to look more prepared than Edina does, coming off the heels of a 10-1 championship win.  In section 3AA St. Thomas Academy beat three seed Eastview 3-1, avoiding the trap that they ran into last year and heading to the Class Double A tournament for their first time.  In Section 4AA, Hill-Murray locked down number three Stillwater and took the title in a 4-0 shutout victory, hoping to take that defense and slow down the other high powered offenses they will face.  Offenses such as those of Blaine, who routed Centennial 8-1 to take their spot in the tournament.  One of the more interesting games to come from the Double A sections was in 6AA as Eden Prairie came into the game against the second seed Minnetonka shorthanded, missing players as a result of a fight in their semi-finals matchup.  Despite having a shortened bench, Eden Prairie snuck by a very game Minnetonka team 2-1.  In class 8AA the one seed once again took the victory as Bemidji beat number two Moorhead 2-0.  Lastly we have the only team that was not the number one seed in their Section, Duluth East took down the one seed Elk River in an exciting double overtime game that saw Duluth East down 3-0 after the first period, but storm back thanks in no small part to a 5 minute power play that got the ball rolling.  Duluth East may need a lot more of that late game magic if they have any hope to win another State Tournament Title. 

Well that wraps up this week and gets us ready for the best High School Hockey in the nation starting this week.  The puck drops on March 4th, make sure you tune in and watch all the action.