The silly season — otherwise known as holiday tournaments — is over.
January means more than just 31 different ways to say it’s cold. It’s time for teams to get serious, with conference play dominating schedules and the first state tournaments little more than a month away.
While there are always basketball and hockey games worth noting, the biggest event this week takes in the great outdoors on skinny skis.
The Mesabi East Nordic Ski Racing Invitational will be held Saturday at Giants Ridge Ski Area in Biwabik. For more than 20 years, the Mesabi East Invite has been the biggest high school Nordic ski racing meet in the country.
As of Monday, 64 teams had confirmed entrance in the meet, which limits the number of varsity and JV skiers to 1,300. The classic 5K race begins at 10 a.m., the freestyle 5K starts at 12:30 p.m.
A new entry on the local Nordic skiing scene won’t match the Mesabi East Invitational in size, but Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis will host the Loppet Invite, a 16-team invitational held in a similar style to the MSHSL state meet.
Among those competing will be Bloomington Jefferson junior Zak Ketterson, the defending boys’ state champion. Racing begins at 11 a.m.
Saturday: Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center. Four of the state’s top teams take on out-of-state foes. Here is the schedule: Omaha (Neb.)Central vs. Apple Valley, 9:15 a.m.; North Scott (Iowa) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall, 11 a.m.; Morgan Park (Ill.) vs. DeLaSalle, 12:45 p.m.; Champlin Park vs. Rice Lake (Wis.), 2:30 p.m.
Friday: Edina at Hopkins, 7 p.m. This will be Hopkins’ first game since beating No. 1, 4A Eastview 68-55 in the finals of the St. Olaf Tournament on Dec. 31.
Edina (8-2) has done its part in keeping fans glued to the bleachers until the final horn. The Hornets’ last three games — victories over Maple Grove and St. Michael-Albertville and a loss to Shakopee — have been by a single point.
Thursday: Roseau at Warroad, 7:30 p.m. No matchup in Minnesota receives more warm fuzzies from hockey fans than this one between two northern powers.
They meet again in Roseau on January 27.
Saturday: Hill-Murray vs. Edina at Braemar, 7 p.m. No. 2, 2A Edina has won a state-record nine state championships; No. 4, 2A Hill-Murray own the state record for runner-up finishes with eight.
Edina won the first meeting between the two 3-1 in the consolation final of the Schwan Cup Gold Division. Must-see hockey.
Saturday: Minnetonka at Eden Prairie, 7 p.m. Another rematch of a recently played holiday tournament game. No. 1, 2A Eden Prairie (14-0-3) beat the No. 5, 2A Skippers (12-4) 2-1 in overtime in the finals of the Eden Prairie Mid-Winter Meltdown.