Not sure where the phase “51 hours of fury” came from when I used it for my boys’ hockey section final preview last season but it stuck.
From the first puck drop Wednesday at 7 p.m., to the end of Friday night’s games – all eight of the Class 2A boys state tournament teams will be determined in section championship games coursing with intensity.
Tuesday’s Star Tribune included what you needed to know about important match-ups, top players and their team's recent rivalries.
Here on the Star Tribune’s new Puck Drop blog, we’ll unpack the reasons for why the section tournaments are can’t-miss hockey – and even rival the state tournament.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s head coach Ken Pauly, once a goalie at Wayzata, said, “I really fell in love with high school hockey watching section semifinals and finals games at the Met Center. The state tourney almost seemed anticlimactic because so much was on the line with those games.”
Pauly’s Red Knights, back in a section final for the first time in five years, tangles with No. 1-ranked Edina at 8 p.m. Wednsday at the Gopher's on-campus stadium named in honor of John Mariucci (take THAT, 3M).
“Honestly, with the section final you feel like you’re already in the state tournament,” Pauly said. “But in reality, it’s a great opportunity.”
Leading off Wednesday’s doubleheader and this torrid final stretch is a 6 p.m. game featuring Eden Prairie and Holy Family Catholic. Each team knocked off the high seeds in Section 2, highlighted by the Fire’s stunning overtime upset of defending state champion Minnetonka.
“There’s nothing like the sections,” Eagles’ coach Lee Smith said. "You play 25 games and then jump in. If you’re lucky enough to get through the first one, then you probably see a rival program in the second round. Then if you make it to Mariucci, you see the fans from the other team filing in during the first game and then hanging around to root for who they want to win the second game.
“On the ice, the section final is the toughest game to win,” Smith said. “Emotionally, it’s the toughest game to lose.”