Called the best-kept secret in boys’ high school playoff hockey, the section tournaments rage on this week with 16 championship games from Wednesday to Friday.
The passion and pride of these games ran afoul of good taste twice last week. Fighting drew attention to the games between Bloomington Jefferson and Holy Angels and most notably, Eden Prairie and Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Three Eden Prairie players were suspended for their involvement and must sit out Wednesday’s Class 2A, Section 6 championship game against Minnetonka.
Hockey fans interested in high-energy games and electric environments have their choice this week. Here are some of the best bets for catching teams on their final stop to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center:
Class 2A, Section 1
Farmington (19-7-1) vs. Lakeville North (27-0), 7 p.m. Thursday, Rochester Rec Center
Lakeville North’s undefeated season almost wasn’t. The Panthers needed a Jack Poehling overtime goal to edge Farmington 6-5 in their season opener. Lakeville North, featuring six Division I recruits including Poehling and his two brothers, won the rematch 6-0. Not since the 1993 Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars has a large-class school enjoyed a perfect season.
Class 2A, Section 2
Burnsville (15-10-2) vs. Edina (23-1-2), 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mariucci Arena
Edina simply has owned Burnsville during Janne Kivihalme’s tenure as Blaze coach. The teams played 14 times with the Hornets winning all but one game. Edina won all four section final meetings in that span, three of them by a lone goal. The Hornets, led by forwards Dylan Malmquist and Garrett Wait, can become the first program since Bloomington Jefferson (1992-94) to win three consecutive large-class state titles.
Class 2A, Section 6
Minnetonka (14-11-2) vs. Eden Prairie (17-9), 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mariucci Arena
Playing shorthanded takes on new meaning for Eden Prairie, which lost three key players for the game. “This changes everything,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith told Loren Nelson of the Star Tribune Boys’ Hockey Hub. “We have to change our line combinations, we’ve got to shuffle our power play, we’ve got to shuffle our penalty kill.” Minnetonka closed the regular season on a 1-6-1 slump but won two of three games against Eden Prairie this season.
Class 2A, Section 7
Elk River/Zimmerman (22-4-1) vs. Duluth East (13-10-4), 7 p.m. Thursday, Amsoil Arena in Duluth
Duluth East has reached the past six consecutive state tournaments, handing Elk River/Zimmerman five playoff losses along the way. The Elks lost in overtime of the section finals last season. Players such as Mr. Hockey finalist Jake Jaremko and Reggie Lutz (39 goals) aim to return the program to its first state tournament since 2005.
Defending state champion East Grand Forks plays Thief River Falls for the Section 8 crown Thursday in Warroad. State runner-up the past five consecutive seasons, Hermantown meets Duluth Marshall on Wednesday at Amsoil Arena for the Section 7 championship. And last year’s tournament surprise, Luverne, hopes to beat New Ulm on Wednesday at Gustavus Aldophus for a return trip to St. Paul.