It's the day before we drop the puck on the 2016 Minnesota State Boys' Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and this year's tournament has a brand new feel in Class 2A, and a very similar feel in Class 1A.
In 1A, Hermantown is back as the top seed in search of breaking a brutal stretch of six straight losses in the championship game. In 2A, the field is filled with public schools but it doesn't include both Edina and Duluth East for the first time in a decade. We'll have the 2A tournament preview for you on Wednesday.
- Mankato West (15-11-2) vs. Breck (24-3-1) – 11 a.m.
- Princeton (21-7-0) vs. Thief River Falls (22-6-0) – 1 p.m.
- Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato (20-8-0) vs. Hermantown (24-2-1) – 6 p.m.
- St. Cloud Cathedral (20-7-1) vs. St. Paul Academy (23-5-0) – 8 p.m.
Here's what's being said about each opening round game in 1A:
#1 Hermantown vs. Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato
"We used to be the darling because we were the underdog," Hermantown coach Bruce Plante told Northland News Center. "Now, we're one of the better teams so people like to see us get knocked off. It certainly brings everybody together. The guys come together, but we've always had that in Hermantown. We've had great camaraderie among our teams here."
Hermantown is riding an 11-game win streak and has outscored its opponents 72-11 during the stretch. LDC is in the tourney after upsetting Luverne in its section final.
#2 Breck vs. Mankato West
West is making its second trip to State and they go in as a major underdog to the state tourney-seasoned Breck Mustangs.
"They're on the biggest screen in the world right now, as far as high school athletics goes, so for them to get this accomplishment is a great thing," West coach Curtis Doell told KEYC. "But we've got to get up there; compete hard, work hard, and have some fun."
Breck is rock-solid. They're 4-0 against tourney teams this season, including blowout wins over Thief River Falls, St. Paul Academy and St. Cloud Cathedral.
#3 Thief River Falls vs. Princeton
“I like our chances (at State),” Thief Rivers Falls goalie Kade Nelson told the Grand Forks Herald. “We’ve played Breck and Hermantown this year and lost both, but that was early in the season. We’ve grown a lot, and I’m super excited to play down there.”
The Prowlers lost 4-1 to Breck and Hermantown, and they don't have a bad loss yet this season (other losses are to Bemidji (twice), Moorhead and Hibbing/Chisholm).
#4 St. Paul Academy vs. #5 St. Cloud Cathedral
"They're extremely fast. They get up and down the ice really well. But so do we," Cathedral coach Derrick Brown told the St. Cloud Times. "So this could be a track meet."
Cathedral played a very difficult schedule with its losses coming to state powers East Grand Forks, Delano, St. Cloud Apollo, Breck, Hermantown, Mahtomedi and Holy Family Catholic.
St. Paul Academy proved it can play with any team when it took Breck to overtime in a 4-3 loss late in the regular season.