Minnesota is known for filling the Xcel Energy Center for four straight days in March at the boys' state tournament, but the week before the big dance is often even more exciting.
Section finals all over the state will be played this week, all but one of them happening Wednesday or Thursday.
1A: #2 Mankato East vs. #5 Rochester Lourdes
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Rochester Rec Center
- Worth knowing: Lourdes is here despite losing 17 of their final 22 regular season games. They upset top seed Albert Lea 3-2 in the semifinals.
2A: #1 Orono vs. #6 Breck
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Parade Ice Gardens
- Worth Knowing: The always dangerous Breck Mustangs might surprise you being the 6-seed, but they erased a 2-0 deficit to beat Mound-Westonka in the semifinals. Orono topped Breck 3-2 back in December.
3A: #1 Luverne vs. #2 Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato
- When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Lund Arena, Gustavus
- Worth knowing: It's a rematch of last year's dramatic section final where Luverne, a very heavy favorite, was upset by the LDC Dragons.
4A: #1 Mahtomedi vs. #3 Simley
- When: Friday, 7 p.m. at Roseville Skating Center
- Worth Knowing: Mahtomedi, ranked No. 2 in 1A, almost didn't reach the section final. Five-seed Northfield took them to overtime before the Zephyrs escaped with a 3-2 win. Simley lost 4-2 in their only game against Mahtomedi during the regular season.
5A: #1 Monticello vs. #2 North Branch
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Elk River Ice Arena
- Worth Knowing: Monticello dominated this section all season and is looking for a return to state, where they finished second to Hermantown last year.
6A: #1 St. Cloud Cathedral vs. #3 Alexandria
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m. at the MAC, St. Cloud
- Worth knowing: Cathedral has scored 6+ goals in a game 11 times this season, including in a 6-1 win over Alexandria in December.
7A: #1 Hermantown vs. #2 Greenway
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Amsoil Arena, Duluth
- Worth knowing: Hermantown is the two-time defending state champ and they've reached the state title game an insane eight years in a row. That means they've carved up the competition in 7A. None of their last 14 playoff games in 7A have been decided by fewer than four goals, according to the Duluth Tribune.
8A: #2 East Grand Forks vs. #4 Thief River Falls
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m. at The Gardens Arena, Warroad
- Worth knowing: Top seed Warroad was upset in the semifinals by Thief River Falls. This marks the eighth straight year without Warroad in the state tourney.
1AA: #1 Lakeville North vs. #3 Lakeville South
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Rochester Rec Center
- Worth knowing: The battle of Lakeville definitely favors North, who beat South twice in the regular season by a combined score of 7-1.
2AA: #1 Minnetonka vs. #2 Holy Family
- When: Wednesday, 8 p.m. at Mariucci Arena
- Worth knowing: Led by Mr. Hockey finalist Luke Loheit, Minnetonka is loaded and has lost just twice all season. But Holy Family has just three losses, albeit playing an easier schedule. They also have a Mr. Hockey finalist in Ben Almquist.
3AA: #1 St. Thomas Academy vs. #2 Eastview
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Braemar Arena, Edina
- Worth knowing: St. Thomas Academy is as high-powered as they come, and their defense is among the best in the state thanks to Atticus Kelly playing some of the best goaltending in the state. The Cadets have allowed 1 or 0 goals 18 times this season. That said, Eastview is 23-4 and not to be taken lightly.
4AA: #1 White Bear Lake vs. Stillwater or Hill-Murray
- When: Friday, 7 p.m. at Aldrich Arena, Maplewood
- Worth knowing: Stillwater and Hill-Murray don't play their section semifinal game until Thursday night, so the winner will have the challenge of beating top seed White Bear Lake on the second night of a back-to-back.
5AA: #1 Centennial vs. #2 Maple Grove
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Aldrich Arena, Maplewood
- Worth knowing: Led by Mr. Hockey finalist Lucas McGregor, Centennial will have to beat Maple Grove for a third time this season to advance to State.
6AA: #1 Edina vs. #3 Wayzata
- When: Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Mariucci Arena
- Worth knowing: Edina is a monster once again this season. The thing that pops on their schedule is a 20-0 rout of Hopkins earlier this month. They're also 2-0 against Wayzata this season, so the pressure will be on the Trojans just to stay in the game.
7AA: #1 Duluth East vs. #2 Andover
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Amsoil Arena, Duluth
- Worth knowing: East is again loaded with a pair of Mr. Hockey finalists: Luke LaMaster and Garret Worth. Andover got drubbed by the Greyhounds 9-3 in their only meeting this season.
8AA: #1 Moorhead vs. #2 St. Michael-Albertville
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Sanford Center, Bemidji
- Worth knowing: Carter Randkelev is a Mr. Hockey finalist and one of the best players in the state, and he's got Moorhead rolling with 10 wins in their last 11 games, including six shutouts. The Spuds rocked STMA 5-0 in their only previous meeting.