Passionate play continues this week as girls’ hockey players skate, sweat and shoot their way toward the state tournament. The field will be set by Friday night and a few section final semifinals and championship games deserve closer inspection.
While six Class 2A sections are represented among the top 10 of the latest coaches poll provided by Let’s Play Hockey Magazine, the talent isn’t evenly spread out. As a result, some deserving teams won’t reach Xcel Energy Center.
The pain will be acute in Section 5, where No. 3-ranked Maple Grove plays No. 8 Centennial in the semifinals on Tuesday at Roseville Arena. No. 4 Blaine plays the early game that evening against Rogers. The winners meet in Friday’s final at Roseville Arena. Maple Grove won the section last year and took second at the state tournament.
If the rankings hold, Sections 2 and 6 will be decided by top-10 teams. In Section 2, defending champion at No. 5-ranked Eden Prairie takes on Chaska/Chanhassen at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Braemar Arena in Edina, while No. 7 Minnetonka battles Shakopee in the nightcap. The winners will play Friday at Ridder Arena.
Section 6 is home to No. 1 Edina, which lost only one game all year. The Hornets play Wednesday against Wayzata at Parade Ice Garden. The late game features No. 9 Cretin-Derham Hall against Hopkins/St. Louis Park. The section final will be Friday at Ridder Arena.
Odds are that Blake, No. 1 in Class 1A, and No. 2 Breck will decide the Section 5 championship for the 10th consecutive year. Both must win Tuesday to set up a Thursday showdown at Parade. Blake has won the past four consecutive section final meetings and leads the series 5-4.
Stakes high for Apple Valley wrestlers
Apple Valley has qualified for every wrestling state tournament since 1982. The Eagles have won 11 consecutive Class 3A team championships and 24 overall state titles. Yet there is a very real chance that the Eagles could be left out of the 2017 state meet. No. 1, 3A Shakopee and No. 2, 3A Apple Valley are both in Section 2, which holds its team tournament Friday at Rosemount. Shakopee beat Apple Valley 29-28 in a season-opening dual.
What’s more Shakopee is now coached by Jim Jackson, the former Apple Valley coach who was so instrumental to the Eagles’ success. Outside of the madness and mayhem of the state meet, Friday is expected to be as good as it gets for wrestling fans.
State meet week
This week also brings the first state tournaments of the winter season. The Alpine skiing state meet is Wednesday at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, followed by the Nordic skiing meet on Thursday at the resort.
Friday, the dance team tournament opens with the jazz competition Friday at Target Center, followed by the high-kick tournament on Saturday.