State Hockey: Stacked 2A field led by perfect Lakeville North

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The Class 2A boy's state hockey tournament will begin Thursday morning at Xcel Energy Center and by the time Sunday rolls around Minnesota will have a new state champion – unless Edina can run the table for a second consecutive title.

But standing in the way of the Hornets this season might be top seed, undefeated Lakeville North. But as good as the Panthers are, there's likely plenty of parity in what looks like a powerful class. Here's a preview of each team leading up to Thursday's opening round (check back later for a Class 1A tournament preview).

Lakeville North (28-0-0) vs. Hill-Murray (21-7-0)

The Panthers own the only unblemished record in the state and three more wins will give them the first perfect season for a big school in Minnesota high school hockey since Bloomington Jefferson in 1992-93, according to MN Hockey Hub. Lakeville North has been ranked No. 1 since beating Edina 3-1 in their second game of the season. Edina crushed North 8-2 in the state title game a year ago. Hill-Murray, a traditional state power, enters the tourney after beating Stillwater in the section final.

Blaine (22-5-1) vs. Eden Prairie (18-9-0)

Blaine rolled into the tournament with a resounding 8-1 win over Centennial in the section final. The Bengals destroyed Eden Prairie by a score of 8-3 on Dec. 23, according to Minnesota-Scores.net.

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Edina (24-1-2) vs. Bemidji (23-3-2)

The Hornets return to defend their title with just one loss (to Lakeville North) this season. Edina is led by senior winger Dylan Malmquist, who was named the Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year. Forum notes that Bemidji, which beat Moorhead 2-0 in the section final, is back in the state tournament for the first time in 29 years (1986).

St. Thomas Academy (24-4-0) vs. Duluth East (14-10-4)

The Cadets beat the Hounds 4-1 in the opening round of the Schwan Cup Gold Division in December. The only other tournament team the Cadets faced this season was Hill-Murray, whom they split a pair of games with. Duluth East is in the tournament again after a thrilling, double-overtime victory in the 7AA final against heavily favored Elk River. The Elks blew a 3-0 first-period lead in the loss, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

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