Perhaps no boys’ hockey trek to Xcel Energy Center is more intriguing than the one through Class 2A, Section 5.
The eight-team field lacks star power — only No. 1 seed Blaine is ranked in the top 20 of the Let’s Play Hockey coaches poll — but story lines are plentiful. Quarterfinals begin Wednesday night.
“If you look at the teams in this section, I’d say getting the No. 1 seed is of some importance but the other teams aren’t going to care,” first-year Blaine coach Chris Carroll said. “We get to wear the white jerseys and that’s about it.”
Blaine (19-5-1) features high-scoring forwards Easton Brodzinski, Luke Notermann and Riley Tufte, who has committed to Minnesota-Duluth. Each player has scored at least 23 goals. Notermann and Tufte also have surpassed 50 points.
The Bengals also boast goaltending depth in Ridge Gerads and Jon Kallestad, who have split duties all season and helped the Bengals remain unbeaten in their past 14 games (13-0-1).
Despite all of its success, Blaine has not defeated No. 2 seed Anoka (16-7-2) this year. The Tornadoes edged Blaine 3-1 on Dec. 20 and the teams skated to a tie Jan. 24.
“We don’t have a top line like Blaine but we have three lines that can compete,” Anoka coach Todd Manthey said.
Eight players have tallied at least 20 points, led by Michael Talbot (16 goals, 13 assists). Soccer fans remember Talbot for scoring in a shootout to defeat Wayzata for the Class 2A state title in October.
Anoka went 8-0-2 to close the regular season. The Tornadoes’ first order of business will be No. 7 seed Rogers (10-14-1), which defeated the Tornadoes 5-4 on Jan. 6.
“All teams need to show up and play because there is potential for some upsets,” Manthey said. “We have to be on top of our game to be successful.”
No. 3 seed Centennial (15-9-1) is the two-time defending section champion. Colton Berg leads the team with 15 goals, followed by Connor Lovick (13) and Tyler Nyman (11).
No. 4 seed Maple Grove (12-13) defeated No. 5 seed Osseo 4-2 on Feb. 12, setting up a rematch of intradistrict rivals in the quarterfinals.
“This section is going to be a dogfight, a grind and a battle,” Carroll said. “But it’s also going to be a ton of fun.”