Talented teams. Story lines. Intriguing matchups.
The Class 2A boys' hockey state tournament bracket, released Saturday, is flooded with all three.
Eden Prairie grabbed the No. 1 seed, followed by No. 2 St. Thomas Academy, No. 3 Moorhead, No. 4 Maple Grove and No. 5 Grand Rapids. Rounding out the bracket were Hill-Murray, Lakeville South and defending champion Wayzata (10-17-1).
"There are no layups," Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. "The team that drew Wayzata knew they'd be tough. They are the champs until someone says differently."
Eden Prairie, which lost to Wayzata in the title game last March, hopes to have a say in the quarterfinals. The Lake Conference rivals are the prime-time matchup at 6 p.m. Thursday.
On Saturday morning, each head coach cast electronic votes for the other seven qualifying teams. The highest and lowest votes for each team were thrown out and the five teams with the lowest overall scores were awarded seeds. The remaining three teams were placed in the quarterfinals by blind draw.
The blind draw results widened a few eyes, however.
"I was surprised out of a random draw we get the team from our conference and the team that we played last year in the finals," said Smith, whose Eagles defeated Wayzata twice this season. "But it probably makes for good TV ratings."
Moorhead also received a tough unseeded opponent in Hill-Murray, which spent time atop the coaches' rankings earlier this season.
Pioneers coach Bill Lechner said he thought his team, which upset No. 3-ranked Stillwater on Friday, earned a seed based on strength of schedule. But then, Hill-Murray split two games against St. Thomas Academy and dropped close games to Moorhead and Maple Grove.
As Spuds coach Jon Ammerman observed, "There was a clear No. 1 in Eden Prairie and a clear No. 8, based on their record, in Wayzata. Anywhere in between you had multiple teams with arguments for different spots."
The big-school portion of the tournament begins Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
The Class 1A tournament starts Wednesday. Defending champion Hermantown is the No. 1 seed. First-time entrant Delano is No. 2, followed by Mahtomedi, East Grand Forks (champs in 2014 and 2015) and St. Cloud Cathedral.