Winter be­gins los­ing its grip this week as high school postseason ac­tion heats up.

Girls’ hock­ey sec­tion play­offs start­ed Mon­day with a few play-in games, but most teams drop the puck in the quart­er­finals on Wednes­day.

Three-time de­fend­ing Class 2A state tour­na­ment cham­pi­on Minnetonka faces its hard­est road to the Xcel Energy Center. The Skip­pers are the No. 3 seed in tal­ent-laden Section 6. The top four seeds, Hopkins, Benilde-St. Mar­ga­ret’s, the Skip­pers and Wayzata, are all ranked­ in the top six in the lat­est Let’s Play Hock­ey coach­es poll.

And No. 5 seed Ma­ple Grove, boast­ing a 10-game win­ning streak, is no slouch.

“At some point you have to beat the best teams,” Crim­son coach Rob Pot­ter said. “I feel good about our pros­pects.”

The past three seas­ons, Section 6 was de­cid­ed by an emo­tio­nal, in­tense game be­tween ri­vals Minnetonka and Benilde-St. Mar­ga­ret’s. Not this time. The teams are on the same side of the brack­et and can meet only in the semi­finals.

In­di­vid­u­al star pow­er runs deep in Section 6. Skip­pers defense­man Syd­ney Bald­win, whose pre­vi­ous three var­sity sea­sons end­ed with a state cham­pi­on­ship, will play for Minnesota next sea­son. She will be joined in ma­roon and gold by Hopkins for­ward Nina Rodgers and Benilde-St. Mar­ga­ret’s for­ward Kelly Pannek.

It’s only fit­ting, then, that the sec­tion cham­pi­on­ship game moved from Parade Ice Garden to Rid­der Arena, home of the Go­phers’ women’s hock­ey team.


Oth­er Class 2A sec­tions

2A: No. 1 seed Eden Prairie won the Lake Conference cham­pi­on­ship, but No. 2 seed Edina eyes a big­ger prize in a po­ten­tial sec­tion cham­pi­on­ship game meet­ing. Hor­nets coach Lau­ra Slominski, re­cov­er­ing from a neck in­ju­ry, has ob­served from the stands this win­ter.

3A: A year ago, Burnsville took a mediocre re­cord into the quart­er­finals and lost to Eastview. But the Blaze earned the No. 1 seed this sea­son, and Eastview’s No. 2 seed sets the stage for a possible rematch in the section championship game.

Class 1A, Section 8

No. 1-ranked Thief River Falls leads a pack of strong north­ern Minnesota teams. East Grand Forks and perennial pow­er Warroad will bat­tle it out for the right to trek south.