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Class 2A Boys Section Previews

Pete Waggoner breaks down the Class 2A boys’ section matchups

Lakeville North’s Jack Poehling making a pass in last year’s Class 2A state quarterfinals against Roseau. (MHM Photo / Tim Kolehmainen)

Pete Waggoner breaks down the Class 2A boys’ section matchups

 

Section 8AA

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  Bemidji (19-3-2)    6  (0)
2.  Moorhead (14-7-2)   14  (0)
3.  Roseau (12-11-1)   34  (7 – 1946, 58, 59, 61, 90, 99, 07)
4.  Buffalo (14-8)    None
5.  Brainerd (8-16-1)   None
6.  River Lakes (12-10-2)   None
7.  St. Cloud Tech (6-16-2)  None
8.  Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake (9-16-0)   None
9.  Becker-Big Lake (5-20-0)   None

Preview
It has been 29-years since the Bemidji Lumberjacks have made a state tournament appearance and 19 years since a team other than Roseau or Moorhead have represented Section 8AA. Alexandria was the last team to capture the Section 8AA title in 1996. Bemidji was last in the state tournament when George Pelawa the led Lumberjacks in 1986. Those two major trends could come to an end this year with the Lumberjacks holding down the top seed in the section. Carrying a 9-0 record in Section 8AA games, the Lumberjacks completed a sweep this year against Moorhead (4-2) and (3-0) and Roseau (3-2) and (4-0). Roseau and Moorhead have combined for 48 state tournament appearances and hold down the second and third seeds. Buffalo presents a challenge to the top three seeds a sleeper in the bracket and has seen steady improvement throughout the year. This year appears to be the year of the Lumberjacks who have allowed just 35 goals against this year second only to Lakeville North’s 34 allowed. Bemidji has proven this is their section to lose.  MNHockeyMag.com predicts:  Bemidji

 

Section 7AA

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  Elk River/Zimmerman (20-4-1)   6  (1 – 2001)
2.  Grand Rapids (13-10-2)   14  (3 – 1975, 76, 80
3.  Duluth East (11-10-4)    21   (3 – 1960, 1995, 1998)
4.  St. Michael-Albertville (21-4-0)   None
5.  Cloquet/Esko/Carlton  (11-11-3)   5  (0)
6.  Andover (10-12-3)   None
7.  Forest Lake (8-15-2)   None
8.  St. Francis (4-20-1)   None 1
9.  Cambridge-Isanti (10-14-0)   1  (0)

Preview
This could be the year the Elk River/Zimmerman Elks return to the state tournament for the first time since 2005.  The turn of the millennium saw the Elks qualify for the state tournament four times in five seasons with a title in 2001. Since then, it has been the trio of Duluth East, Grand Rapids, and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton that have represented Section 7AA. With a 4-0-1 record against 7AA teams, the only blemish on the Elks’ resume in those five games was a 1-1 tie against Duluth East on Jan. 31. Wins against Andover (twice), Grand Rapids, and Forest Lake help the Elks’ cause as the favorite and number one seed. The Grand Rapids Thunderhawks cannot be ruled out with a terrific junior class and the wild card team is the St. Michael-Albertville Knights who are entering the post season with 21 win campaign. If the Knights can transition to a playoff run, STMA has the potential to be a bracket buster. Never rule out the well-coached Duluth East Greyhounds who are always tough in the post season. Elk River may have the best player in high school hockey in Jake Jaremko (22g-46a-68pts) and his running mate Reggie Lutz (35g-25a-60pts) completes a high end tag team that should propel them to the state tournament.  MNHockeyMag.com predicts:  Elk River

 

Section 6AA

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  Eden Prairie (16-9-0)   7   (2 – 2009, 2011)
2.  Minnetonka (12-11-2)   5 (0)
3.  Wayzata (11-11-3)  3 (0)
4.  Benilde-St. Margaret’s (14-9-2)   4 (1999, 2001, 2012)
5.  Holy Family Catholic (17-6-2)   None
6.  Hopkins (12-11-1)   2 (0)
7.  Robbinsdale Armstrong/Cooper (9-15-1)   None

Preview
The Eden Prairie Eagles ended up separating themselves from the field the final two weeks of the season with consistent play and a commitment to a shutdown defensive brand. While they executed their game plan, the other teams in this section took turns beating up on each other. Not one of the seven teams in this grouping was winless in sectional match-ups. The Eagles’ 5-4 sectional record was similar to Wayzata (5-3-1) and Minnetonka (5-5) in the all important games this year. Holy Family Catholic led all teams with 17 wins on the season and was 3-2-1 in Section 6AA matchups. The seventh seeded Armstrong/Cooper Wings defeated the #2 seed Minnetonka Skippers this year illustrating that this section is the most wide-open of any in the two classes of boy’s hockey. It has been the play of the Eden Prairie Eagles down the stretch that has stood out among the rest. While they lost to Edina in the final game of the season the Eagles had won five straight and six of seven prior to that. Where Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Hopkins pans out is anyone’s guess as both teams are capable of winning the tournament as well.   All teams have had peaks and valleys this year and any team is capable of a run. At this point, Eden Prairie will get the nod as the team that is playing the best defensively of the seven teams and has the offensive skill to finish on the big sheet of Mariucci Arena in the final.  MNHockeyMag.com predicts:  Eden Prairie

 

Section 5AA

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  Blaine (19-5-1)   10   (1- 2000)
2.  Anoka (16-7-2)   5  (1-2003)
3.  Centennial (15-9-1)   3  (1- 2004)
4.  Maple Grove (12-13-0)  1  (0)
5.  Osseo (13-10-2)   1  (0)
6.  Champlin Park (7-17-1)   1 (0)
7.  Rogers (10-14-1)   None
8.  Coon Rapids (4-20-1)   None

Preview
The Blaine Bengals opened the season 6-5 and finished the season with a sizzling 13-0-1 run. The Bengals have found their game under new head coach Chris Carroll and have found balance in their offensive game. Blaine will have some issues in front of them with the resurgent Anoka Tornadoes who earned a win and a tie against the Bengals. They have identical 7-3-1 records in sectional games and it makes one wonder, why have head-to-head or does it play into the voting if Anoka was the two seed. A run to the state tournament is not guaranteed for Blaine and Anoka with the likes of Centennial, Maple Grove, and Osseo providing the potential upsets along the way.  The section final should come down to Anoka and Blaine. The Tornadoes sport an 8-0-2 record of their own over the last ten games. Can Anoka play the Bengals for the third time this year and not lose is the question.  MNHockeyMag.com predicts: Blaine (in overtime)

 

Section 4

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  Hill-Murray (18-7-0)   26  (3 – 1980, 1991, 2008)
2.  White Bear Lake (20-5-0)   19 (0)
3.  Stillwater (17-8-0)   1  (0)
4.  Roseville Area (15-10-0)   3  (0)
5.  Mounds View (12-10-3)   5  (0)
6.  Tartan (12-12-1)   2  (0)
7.  Irondale (3-19-3)   3  (0)
8.  North St. Paul (4-21-0)   4  (0)

Preview
Last year, the Stillwater Ponies stopped the Hill-Murray Pioneers to advance to their first ever boys hockey state tournament. The Ponies followed up their impressive 2014 season with a 17 win campaign and that was only good enough for the third seed this year. The Pioneers are focused to return to the state tournament for the 27th time in school history and there is another team that has been fantastic all year in White Bear Lake. Add to that mix a hard-to-play-against Tartan Titan team that, at the sixth seed, is a tough opening round opponent for the defending section champs in Stillwater. Roseville does not allow a lot of goals against and has a great first round matchup with Mounds View, another team that can pull upsets throughout the bracket. This bracket rivals the Section 6AA for teams that can beat anyone at any point of the sectional tournament. It still appears as though the finals are destined to set up with White Bear Lake battling Hill-Murray for the right to head to St. Paul. Their contest on Jan. 31 was a classic that saw the Pioneers win 2-1 at the Vadnais Sports Center. White Bear Lake has been shutdown defensively allowing just 38 goals against which is third fewest in Class 2A hockey to #1 Lakeville North (34) and Bemidji (35). Based on that, the Bears have the goods to get it done this year.  MNHockeyMag.com predicts:  White Bear Lake (in overtime)

 

Section 3AA

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  St. Thomas Academy (21-4-0)   8  (5 – 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012. 2013)
2.  Cretin-Derham Hall (14-6-5)  3  (1 – 2006)
3.  Eastview (12-12-1)   2   (0)
4.  Rosemount (11-14-0)  1  (0)
5.  East Ridge (8-14-3)   None
6.  Eagan (7-17-1)   4  (0)
7.  Woodbury (9-13-3)   2  (0)
8.  Hastings (8-15-2)  6  (0)
9.  Apple Valley (5-19-1)  5  (1- 1996)
10.  Park (2-22-1)  None

Preview
Viewed as a potential two-horse race between the St. Thomas Academy Cadets and the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders, there are plenty of battle tested teams from the South Suburban, Metro East, and Suburban East Conferences that make up this crowded section of ten teams.  St. Thomas Academy and Cretin-Derham hall are the only teams that are over .500 in the section and if they earn their way to the final will skate in a rematch from earlier this year. The Cadets won that game 5-2 on Jan. 27 and were ranked in the top three of the MNHockeyMag.com top ten most of the season making the transition from Class 1A to Class 2A seamless in just two seasons. The Cadets will be looking to make their first tournament appearance since moving up to the Class 2A. Meanwhile, the Raiders have not been to St. Paul since 2009 and have been in the top ten of the MNHockeyMag.com top ten the second half of the season earning that on the strength of an impressive winning streak. The bitter rivalry and subsequent skill both teams have could set up one of the most entertaining section finals this year and it will play out on Ridder Arena ice. The Eastview Lightning, Rosemount Irish, and East Ridge Raptors have the ability to surprise some teams along the way. The Cadets were in the position last season to represent their section and were stopped short by Eagan in the section final allowing for that potential to play out again this season.   MNHockeyMag.com predicts: Cretin-Derham Hall

 

Section 2AA

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  Edina (22-1-2)   36  (12 – 1969, 71, 74, 78, 79, 82, 84, 88, 97, 2010, 13, 14)
2.  Prior Lake (16-8-1)   None
3.  Burnsville (13-10-2)   8  (2 – 1985, 1986)
4.  Bloomington Jefferson (13-10-2)  16 (5 – 1981, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994)
5.  Academy of Holy Angels (15-10-0)   5  (2 – 2002, 2005)
6.  Chanhassen (7-13-5)   None
7.  Shakopee (3-21-1)   1  (0)

Preview
Led by Edina’s 12 state titles, this section has plenty to boast about as the seven teams have combined for 21 state championships and over the years. This is Edina’s section to lose and with their staggering 22-1-2 record, the Hornets have not lost since December 4th. Edina is 19-1-2 against teams that have been ranked in the MNHockeyMag.com top ten at some point this season. Edina did not race through a cupcake schedule and are in a position for the first three-peat since the legendary Bloomington Jefferson teams of 1992-1994. This team has not been spoken of in the legendary regard but the discussion points should begin as the tournament looms. This could be the best batch of Edina teams in its history. Will Prior Lake, Burnsville, Bloomington Jefferson, or the Academy of Holy Angels have anything for the Hornets who need to win just two games to advance to St. Paul? It is possible, but highly doubtful this year.  MNHockeyMag.com predicts:  Edina

 

Section 1AA

Official seeding (record) — state trips (titles)
1.  Lakeville North (25-0-0)   8   (0) – 3 trips as Lakeville
2.  Lakeville South (14-10-1)   5 (0) – 3 trips as Lakeville
3.  Farmington (17-7-1)   2  (0)
4.  Rochester Mayo (16-8-1)   11 (0) – 4 trips as Rochester
5.  Rochester Century (15-7-3)   7 (0) 4 trips as Rochester
6.  Rochester John Marshall (13-12-0)   10  (1- 1977)  4 trips as Rochester
7.  Owatonna (11-12-2)   1  (0)
8.  Dodge County (7-17-0)   None

Preview
The Lakeville North Panthers have been the talk of the 2014-2015 season and for good reason. They waltzed through the regular season with a perfect record and have their sights on a return to the state final. Standing in their way is cross-town rival Lakeville South and fellow South Suburban conference opponent Farmington. Consider they have allowed a league leading 34 goals against in 25 games this season with five of those allowed in their season opening 6-5 overtime win against Farmington. That is what the Panther opponents should be concerned about than the offensive capabilities of the deep and talented Panther roster. The trio of Rochester teams have all delivered winning records this season making for some great parity in the Section 1AA. It is fair to say, like Edina in the Section 2AA, it will be Lakeville North’s to lose.  MNHockeyMag.com predicts:   Lakeville North

Pete Waggoner has covered hockey since 1989 and his work includes play-by-play and studio hosting. Currently, he hosts This Week in High School Sport on 1500 ESPN and hosts the Overtime Hockey Podcast at 1500espn.com that posts every Monday. His past work has appeared on Sports Radio 105 The Ticket, KFAN Radio, MyFoxHockey.com, Fox Sports North Prep Zone, MNHockeyCenter, and Prep45.com.Prior to that, Waggoner developed MyFoxHockey.com along with Fox9 Twin Cities and was one of the original architects of the MNHockeyhub.com from concept to delivery.

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