Let’s talk puck.
While hockey is never far from the minds of rink rats, the end of the boys’ high school regular season and the beginning of section playoffs generate intense interest and plenty of advance planning.
Here’s a snapshot of each section:
Section 1: Undefeated and top-ranked Lakeville North is the top seed. Little else needs to be said.
Section 2: Two-time defending champion Edina is riding a 13-game winning streak. The No. 1-seeded Hornets likely will face either Prior Lake or Burnsville for the title.
Section 3: After winning its first 13 games, No. 1 seed St. Thomas Academy is 8-4 over its past 12. But No. 2 Cretin-Derham Hall and No. 3 Eastview have stumbled recently.
Section 4: Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake earned the top two seeds, respectively, in this section. Since 2004, the two have met in the section finals six times, with the Pioneers winning five.
Section 5: Blaine (19-5-1) copped the top seed, but No. 2 Anoka (16-7-1) has legit hopes. The Tornadoes are undefeated over their past 10 games and have a 1-0-1 record vs. Blaine.
Section 6: The No. 1 seed went to Eden Prairie, but third-seeded Wayzata has the best record has the record against section opponents (6-3-1). Minnetonka was seeded No. 2 despite finishing 1-6-1.
Section 7: Top seed Elk River has tightened up its defense in the second half of the season. The Elks gave up 44 goals through their first 12 games but only 18 goals over their final 13.
Section 8: Bemidji (19-3-1) earned the No. 1 seed and has a great chance for its first state tournament berth since 1986, when the Lumberjacks were led by 1986 Mr. Hockey winner George Pelawa.
Section 1: New Prague (17-8) earned the top seed by virtue of a 6-0 record against teams within the section.
Section 2: Last year, Orono ended Breck’s five-year state tournament run in the section final. The top-seeded Mustangs won’t be surprised again.
Section 3: Luverne made its first state tournament appearance last year. The top-seeded Cardinals, with two of the state’s top four scorers in Chaz Smedsrud and Jaxon Nelson, will be back.
Section 4: Top-seeded Mahtomedi has moved up to No. 2 in the 1A rankings. The big question will be how No. 2-seeded St. Paul Academy responds to the departure of coach Billy Owens, who resigned abruptly last week.
Section 5: The most bewildering of the 1A sections. Spring Lake Park earned the top seed despite finishing the season 0-5-1. Still, the Panthers played a tough Northwest Suburban Conference schedule and are battle-tested.
Section 6: No. 1 seed Alexandria is the clear favorite.
Section 7: Can top-seeded Hermantown make it six consecutive Class 1A championship-game appearances in a row? Will the Hawks finally win one?
Section 8: Defending state champ East Grand Forks (21-4) has lost to only one Class 1A team this season: Hermantown, which the Green Wave beat in the 2014 championship game.