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MHM Class A Boys Hockey Section Preview

The MNHockeyMag breaks down each of the sections in the Class A as the boys sectional tournaments are underway.

Section 1A
1.  New Prague (18-4-3)
2.  Mankato West (23-2-0)
3.  Rochester Lourdes (8-18-1)
4.  Albert Lea (14-10-1)
5.  Northfield (10-14-1)
6.  Faribault (11-11-1)
7.  Le Seur-Henderson/St. Peter (15-7-2)
8.  La Crescent (16-5-4)
9.  Red Wing (3-22-0)
10.  Mankato East/Loyola (8-17-0)
11.  Austin (3-21-1)
12.  Winona (3-20-2)
13.  Waseca (6-15-1)

Outlook:  The largest section in all of boys hockey from either class is one of the most difficult to analyze.  What is given is that the New Prague Trojans finished  8-0 in Section 1A games and finished second behind Section 1AA’s Farmington in the Missota Conference.  The Mankato West Scarlets lost just two games this season which were back-to-back on December 28th and January 4th.  The first loss was to Notre Dame Academy in overtime by a score of 3-2 and the second was to New Prague by a score of 2-1.  The Scarlets posted a 13-1 recored in Section 1A play and were perfect in winning the Big 9 Conference with an 18-0 record.  West  lit it up offensively with 152 goals and have been down right filthy defensively in allowing just 32 goals against. Interestingly, the Rochester Lourdes Eagles captured the third seed with an 8-18-1 record while grinding through a tough independent schedule.  The Eagles are on a run of five straight State Tournament appearances and will have their work cut out for them to make it six straight.  Albert Lea had a solid Big 9 season and finishing fourth in the conference.  Ten teams begin play on Tuesday for the right to move on and play the top four seeds in the Section 1A quarterfinals.  MNHockeyMag Predicts:  Mankato West over New Prague

Section 2A
1.  Breck School (19-5-1)
2.  Orono (16-8-1)
3.  Bloomington Kennedy (12-11-2)
4.  Delano/Rockford (14-10-1)
5.  Blake School (15-10-0)
6.  Mound-Westonka (12-11-2)
7.  Chaska (10-13-2)
8.  St. Louis Park (9-14-2)
9.  Waconia (9-15-1)
10.  Minneapolis (8-15-1)
11.  Richfield (10-15-0)

Outlook: Not many sections have the 11th seeded team with10 wins and that is a statement for the Section 2A as Richfield pulls in with the last spot but had a productive regular season.  The section championship has gone to the Breck School each of the last 5 seasons and the previous three titles were earned by the Blake school totaling the last 8 by those programs.  This season will provide a stiff challenge for the Breck Mustangs as the disciplined Orono Spartans, the deep Bloomington Kennedy Eagles, and the defensively sound Delano/Rockford Tigers are all legitimate title contenders and can beat anyone on any given day.  Breck (5-0-0), Orono (6-3-0), Bloomington Kennedy (4-1-1),  Delano (5-5-0) and Mound-Westonka (4-2-1) pace the way with the best section 2A records.  The MNHockeyMag Predicts:  Breck over Bloomington Kennedy

Section 3A
1.  Luverne (24-0-1)
2.  New Ulm (15-10-0)
3.  Willmar (11-12-1)
4.  Hutchinson (10-13-1)
5.  Marshall (12-12-0)
6.  Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato (5-18-1)
7.  Windom Area (9-13-1)
8.  Morris/Benson Area (8-16-1)
9.  Fairmont (3-19-1)
10.  Redwood Valley (4-14-0)
11.  Worthington (2-16-0)

Outlook: What more can be said about the Luverne Cardinals?  At 24-0-1 they own the only unbeaten record in Minnesota High School hockey.  The Cards have scored a league best 183 goals and allowed a league low 29 against while decimating their opponents, many in the Section 3A.  This team was first on the MNHockeyMag radar a couple of months back and they are not only talented but young.  Luverne has balance between seniors all the way down to the eighth grader Jaxon Nelson (25g-27a-52pts).  The competition for the Section title will come from New Ulm, Willmar, Hutchinson, and Marshall.  Luverne’s 15-0 section record suggests it will be difficult for anyone to deny the Cardinals a spot in St. Paul this year. MNHockeyMag Predicts:  Luverne over New Ulm

Section 4A
1.  Totino Grace (14-10-1)
2.  Mahtomedi (14-10-0)
3.  St. Paul Academy (17-8-0)
4.  South St. Paul (10-14-1)
5.  Minnehaha Academy (12-12-0)
6.  Simley (10-14-0)
7.  Acheiver Academy (16-7-2)
8.  Henry Sibley (5-18-2)
10.  St. Paul Johnson (4-19-2)
11.  St. Paul Highland Park  (1-22-1)

Outlook:  Gone is St. Thomas Academy to the Class AA and for the first time in three seasons a new Section 4A and State Championship team will be crowned with their departure.  Leading the way for the Section 4A is a trio of teams that could be considered legitimate title contenders.  The Totino-Grace Eagles finished 8-0 in the North Suburban Conference and only played two Section 4A games this season finishing 1-1. The Mahtomedi Zephyrs posted a 6-1 section record, and in head to head games, the Zephyrs topped Totino-Grace 4-3 and lost to the St. Paul Academy Spartans by a score of 3-2.  The Spartans were an impressive 8-1 in section games.  South St. Paul and Minnehaha Academy have a chance to make things interesting in the 4A this season.  MNHockeyMag Predicts:  Mahtomedi over Totino-Grace

Section 5A
1.  Chisago Lakes Area (16-8-0)
2.  Princeton (13-11-0)
3.  Spring Lake Park (18-7-0)
4.  Proctor (7-18-0)
5.  Providence Academy (6-19-0)
6.  Mora/Hinckley-Finlayson (15-9-1)
7.  Legacy Christian (11-12-0)
8.  Pine City/Rush City (5-19-0)
9.  North Branch (3-20-0)
10.  Moose Lake Area (5-18-0)

Outlook:  An overhaul of Section 5A saw perennial Section 5A champion Hermantown return to the Section 7A, Rogers moved up to Class AA, and St. Cloud Cathedral was shifted to the geographically friendly Section 6A.  It opened up opportunities for a number of teams.  Chisago Lakes holds down the top seed and finished with a 6-0 record in section games.  Their 8-3 conference record was good for third place in the Mississippi 8 conference.  Princeton finished 6th in the Mississippi 8 and were 5-2 in Section 5A games.  Two losses against Chisago Lakes (8-2) and (3-2) represent their only two losses in the section.  The Spring Lake Park Panthers have the most wins of any team in the section with 18 during the regular season and are 3-2 in section play. The Panther section losses were to Chisago Lakes (5-2) and Princeton (5-3).  MNHockeyMag Predicts: Chisago Lakes over Spring Lake Park

Section 6A
1.  St. Cloud Cathedral (16-7-1)
2.  Alexandria (16-5-3)
3.  St. Cloud Apollo (15-10-0)
4.  Sauk Rapids-Rice (17-8-0)
5.  Sartell-St. Stephen (12-12-1)
6.  Fergus Falls (9-13-1)
7.  Prairie Center Area (15-10-0)
8.  Little Falls (3-20-2)
9.  Northern Lakes (9-16-0)
10.  Wadena-Deer Creek (4-20-1)
11.  Breckenridge/Wahpeton (3-13-2)

Outlook:  The top four teams, St. Cloud Cathedral, Alexandria, St. Cloud Apollo, and Sauk Rapids-Rice have the potential to earn the Section 6A title.  Like many other sections, the balance on the top end of the 6A is impressive.  Each of the top four seeds won between 15-17 games on the season including earning between 7 and 8 sectional wins this year.  Each of the four team’s schedules are difficult this year as well and that is not to say Sartell-St. Stephen, Fergus Falls, or Prairie Center Area won’t have a say in their games with the top four.  When teams are close, it usually comes down to who can keep the puck out of the net.  Alexandria had the most success in the regular season allowing just 46 against yet Cathedral (57), Apollo (58), and Sauk Rapids-Rice (61) are right in the same defensive mix. Cathedral went through a swoon of losing 6 out of 7 games including a pair of one goal games in the Granite City Showcase to Sauk Rapids-Rice  and Sartell-St. Stephen and then rebounded to go on a nine game unbeaten string (8-0-1).  Like all teams in this section they took turns beating each other making calling a winner very difficult.  MnHockeyMag Predicts:  St. Cloud Cathedral over Alexandria

Section 7A
1.  Hermantown (19-4-2)
2.  Duluth Marshall (16-8-1)
3.  Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl (17-7-1)
4.  Duluth Denfeld (13-10-2)
5.  Hibbing/Chisholm (10-13-1)
6.  Eveleth-Gilbert (14-10-1)
7.  North Sore (14-9-2)
8.  International Falls (6-17-1)
9.  Greenway (6-16-3)
10.  Ely/Northeast Range (1-17-0)

Outlook:  The Hermantown Hawks were placed back in the geographically friendly  Northeastern Section 7A.  That was great news for the members of the 5A as Hermantown won the last four section titles and 6 of the last 8.  Things don’t get easier for the Hawks as there are legitimate challenges in this section.  VMIB cleaned up on the Section in posting a 9-1-1 record and some of their wins were against the lower end of the seeded.  With some solid wins this year and are back in the mix once again, the Blue Devils of Virgina/Mountain Iron-Buhl are relevant once again in section discussions.  Duluth Marshall plays a difficult schedule that includes games against high end Class AA teams and they closed out the season on a 4-0 run outscoring their opponents 26-2.  The Duluth Denfeld Hunters have proven they can play with anyone that included a one goal overtime loss and tie to top seeded Hermantown and a 3-2 win over number two seed Duluth Marshall. They lost to VMIB in their fifth game of the season which plummeted their record to 1-4 and since have closed with a 6-2-2 record including a 4-0-1 record in their last five.  That leaves the top seeded Hawks who are playoff tested and know the drill of one and done.  With just four losses on the season that included a difficult schedule, the Hawks are the favorites to represent the section.  As the results have dictated, anything can happen with these teams. MNHockeyMag Predicts:  Hermantwon over Duluth Marshall

Section 8A
1.  East Grand Forks (22-2-1)
2.  Warroad (20-4-1)
3.  Thief River Falls (14-10-1)
4.  Kittson Central (16-5-2)
5.  Detroit Lakes (16-7-1)
6.  Park Rapids Area (17-6-3)
7.  Crookston (6-15-4)
8.  Lake of the Woods (5-17-3)
9.  Bagley/Fosston (2-20-0)

Outlook:  The East Grand Forks Green Wave have been dominant this season, particularly in their defensive zone where six returning defensemen from last year’s state tournament qualifier have made them nearly impenetrable.  Currently, the Green Wave are on a 14-game winning streak and have not given up more than two goals against during that stretch.  With nine shutouts on the season and only 30 goals against in 25 games, they have the key elements to not only win the section but the State Tournament. Their only resounding loss (at Breck) came a day after defeating then #1AA Blaine the night before.  But it won’t be as easy as it sounds.  A major road-block for the Green Wave is the Warroad Warriors who have the offensive flair to challenge the stifling defensive brand of the Green Wave.  The Warriors have tallied 142 goals, many off the sticks of the state’s top three point producers in Kobe Roth (40g-45a-85pts), Jared Bethune (31g-53a-84pts), and Kyle Sylvester (36g-47a-83pts). That trio will see a ton of ice time throughout the playoffs and make the Warriors the most dangerous two seed in the state.  Don’t count out annually strong Thief River Falls, who under coach Tim Bergland also pose a threat to represent the section. Still, it’s tough to go against the defending section champs.   MNHockeyMag Predicts:  East Grand Forks over Warroad

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 that posts every Monday. His past work has appeared on Sports Radio 105 The Ticket, KFAN Radio,, Fox Sports North Prep Zone, MNHockeyCenter, and to that, Waggoner developed along with Fox9 Twin Cities and was one of the original architects of the from concept to delivery.

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