The girls’ hockey state tournament starts Wednesday, with the first puck dropping at 11 a.m. at Xcel Energy Center. It continues through Saturday evening with championship games in Class 1A and 2A. Star Tribune high school hockey writer David La Vaque offers up five things to know behind the scenes:

1 New championship session

With a goal of increasing attendance, Saturday’s Class 1A title game moves back four hours to 4 p.m. The Class 2A title game starts at 7 p.m. Fans can buy one ticket good for both games. A total of 2,825 fans attended last year’s Class 1A and 2A championship/third-place sessions.

 

2 Past champs on collision course

Minnetonka, the No. 1 seed in Class 2A, and No. 2 seed Hill-Murray, have combined to win the past four Class 2A state championships. But don’t pencil them in just yet. Both teams lost to a potential semifinal opponent. Blaine blanked Minnetonka while Edina topped Hill-Murray.

 

3 Da Bears

Blake carries the No. 2 seed into the Class 1A field behind Thief River Falls, but the Bears should be considered the favorites to win a third consecutive and sixth overall state title. The team went 24-4 this season with a victory against defending Class 2A champion Hill-Murray.

 

4 State first for Darwitz

Natalie Darwitz, a three-time Olympian who also played in three state tournaments, makes her state tournament head coaching debut with No. 4 seed Lakeville South. Darwitz first played in the 1997 state tournament, helping Eagan finish second. She was an assistant coach on Eagan’s 2008 tournament team.

5 Sterling statistics

Red Wing senior Reagan Haley holds the school record with 256 career assists. Teammate Ashley Corcoran, a senior goaltender, set Wingers’ single-season records with 23 victories and 10 shutouts. … South St. Paul senior goalie Sydney Conley’s 62 career victories are the most in program history. … Coach Steve Guider of Blaine won his 200th game this season and Buffalo coach Ray Dahlof recorded his 300th career victory.

David La Vaque