Anoka (18-9) vs. Eden Prairie (No. 1, 19-7-2), 6 p.m. Thursday
Scouting the Tornadoes: Happy New Year it was not for Anoka, which started 2016 with a six-game losing streak. Weathered but not beaten, players picked up the pieces. "We had a quote, 'Individuals form in small groups and complain about others. Teams get together and find ways to succeed,' " senior forward Michael Talbot said. He would know, having played a key role in Anoka's past two Class 2A champion soccer teams. Both groups were unheralded but found a way. Talbot hopes the formula transfers to the ice. "We were the underdog in sections, and nothing changes going into state," Talbot said. "Just like how we were in soccer. People better watch out for us."
Scouting the Eagles: Junior forward Casey Mittelstadt stood outside the Mariucci Arena locker rooms after the Section 2 final, looking much different than he did a year before. An ice pack adorned his right elbow. His red face glistened with sweat. As a sophomore, he enjoyed a charmed hockey life. He committed to the Gophers before the season, then helped the Eagles to state. Getting back took more effort, something the team wasn't giving on a nightly basis. "We played really well, and then we thought we should just beat teams," Mittelstadt said. "It was a reality check. But the lull kind of helped us. Against Prior Lake you saw guys diving to block shots. I don't think anyone would have done that a month ago."
Worth knowing: An otherwise fresh tournament field features Eden Prairie forward Michael Graham, who has more than 150 career points and has played in three state tournaments.
david la vaque