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.