The Class 1A boys' State Hockey Tournament is underway as the teams from Class 2A sit back and wait for quarterfinal games to begin on Thursday.
If you missed our 1A preview, check it out right here.
This marks the first time since the 2005-06 season that both Edina and Duluth East are not in the tournament. Here's a game-by-game preview of what should be an incredibly competitive 8-team tournament. Eden Prairie can thank strength of schedule for their No. 1 overall seed, because Stillwater's one-loss season definitely had an argument to be the top seed.
- Farmington (18-8-1) vs. Stillwater (26-1-1) – 11 a.m.
- Burnsville (16-10-2) vs. Wayzata (19-8-1) – 1 p.m.
- Anoka (18-9-0) vs. Eden Prairie (19-7-2) – 6 p.m.
- Bemidji (23-2-2) vs. Grand Rapids (21-6-1) – 8 p.m.
#1 Eden Prairie vs. Anoka
One of the state's top players will garner plenty of attention from Anoka as Eden Prairie junior forward Casey Middelstad comes in red hot. The future Gopher has 28 goals and 68 points this season, and he scored twice in all three of Eden Prairie's section playoff games.
Meanwhile, the bar was set by Eden Prairie's girls' hockey team that won the state tournament two weeks ago. Head coach Lee Smith said the pressure is on his guys, especially the players that are dating girls from the hockey team, according to the Sun Current.
Anoka is back in the tourney for the first time since 2003, and their path here was pretty incredible. The Tornadoes upset Centennial in the section semifinals and then beat a good Maple Grove team – which upset Blaine – for the section title.
#2 Stillwater vs. Farmington
The Ponies come in as the highest-ranked team in the final regular season poll at No. 2 overall. They might have a chip on their shoulder considering Eden Prairie got the top seed, but at least the Ponies can say they were on Sports Center last week: Noah Cates' overtime spin-o-rama goal to beat Hill-Murray in the section final got national attention.
“But at the end of the day it (their seed) doesn’t really matter,” Stillwater coach Matt Doman told the Pioneer Press. “You’ve got to beat three really good teams to win a state tournament.”
Stillwater also has the Star Tribune's metro goalie of the year, Josh Benson.
Farmington is in the 2A tournament for the first time ever, and it's their first trip to state overall since 2000. The Post Bulletin notes that when the Tigers get rolling they're capable of scoring in bunches – like they did with 3 goals in under 5 minutes in the section final against Lakeville North.
Don't expect Farmington to get blown out. They went 3-0 against Lakeville North this season and they beat Wayzata and skated to a tie against Burnsville. The Tigers are legit and they're led by Mr. Hockey finalist, defenseman Tyler Jette.
#3 Wayzata vs. Burnsville
Wayzata is led by former Gopher player Pat O'Leary as he leads the Trojans into State for the second time in his five years as the coach. Wayzata might be the best-tested team in state having already beaten fellow state tourney teams Anoka, Burnsville and Eden Prairie. They've also played against – and lost – Farmington and Hermantown, along with state powers Edina (win) and Hill-Murray (loss).
Watch out for senior forward and North Dakota recruit Matt Senden. He's a game-changer, according to State of Hockey.
Burnsville comes in hot after destroying St. Thomas Academy 7-1 in the section final. The Blaze started the season 0-3-1 but who could blame them considering those games were against Hill-Murray, Edina, Benilde-St. Margaret's and Farmington? The player to watch is forward Cade Borchardt, who had 9 goals and 5 assists in three playoff games.
#4 Grand Rapids vs. #5 Bemidji
These two teams played to a 1-1 tie in Grand Rapids' season opening. The other tourney teams Grand Rapids played were losses to Eden Prairie and Wazyata. Bemidji didn't play any other tournament teams.
“At the end of the day, you get to the state tournament, no matter who you play they’re gonna be a good team,” Bemidji head coach Wade Chiodo told the Bemidji Pioneer. “I don’t get into the seedings as much as everybody else does. I just worry about winning the game and winning that first game, whoever we have to play.”
The one to watch in this one is Grand Rapids forward, Mr. Hockey finalist Michael Mattson.