Hill-Murray returns to defend Class AA title
Six of last year’s 16 qualifiers are making return trips to the 2016 Girls’ Hockey State Tournament, including the two-time defending Class AA champions from Hill-Murray of Maplewood. The Blake School, a perennial state tournament entrant, is back after a runner-up finish in Class A in 2015.
There are four teams making their first state tournament appearances: Northfield and Luverne in Class A, and Maple Grove and Sartell/Sauk Rapids in Class AA.
Hill-Murray earned the No. 1 seed in Class AA. The Pioneers are attempting to become the second consecutive big school to win three Class AA championships in a row. Minnetonka was the first to accomplish the feat from 2011-13. In 2013, Minnetonka defeated Hill-Murray in the big-school title game.
Edina is the No. 2 seed in Class AA followed by No. 3 Eden Prairie. Maple Grove earned the No. 4 seed and Lakeville South is No. 5.
The Blake School earned the No. 1 seed in the Class A field. The Bears, who lost to Thief River Falls in last year’s small-school championship game, are trying to win their state-best sixth state championship. Warroad earned the No. 2 seed followed by St. Paul United at No. 3. Proctor/Hermantown is the No. 4 seed and New Prague is No. 5.
This is the 22nd state tournament, but only the eighth year that the event has been seeded. It is the 10th consecutive year that eight teams will compete in both Class A and Class AA. Only four teams competed in the 1995 and 1996 state tournaments, and eight teams competed from 1997 through 2001.
This is also the 11th year that all championship rounds of the tournament will be played at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. All consolation games will be conducted at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
The Class A teams will start play on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 11 a.m., and the Class AA teams will take to the ice at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18. Championship semifinals in both classes will be played Friday, Feb. 19. The Class A third-place game will be played on Saturday at 9 a.m. and the Class AA third-place game will follow at 11 a.m. Both championship games will be played in one session later on Saturday. The Class A game will begin at 4 p.m. and the Class AA title game will begin at 7 p.m.
The seeding process had all 16 coaches of the section champions log onto a special page of the League website. Each coach then ranked the other teams one through seven. The highest and lowest rankings for each team were discarded, leaving five rankings for each team. From those rankings, the top five teams were seeded. In conference calls with all eight head coaches of each class, League Associate Director Craig Perry announced the top five seeds. A blind draw determined the three teams to oppose the top three seeded teams. Numbers four and five automatically play each other.
CLASS 1A HIGHLIGHTS
Section 1A Northfield (19-9-0) vs. (No. 2 seed) Section 8A Warroad (23-3-1) — 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17: The Northfield Raiders are making their state tournament debut. They were ranked No. 16 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. Northfield played tournament entrant New Prague early in the season and lost 3-0. Warroad is making its sixth state tournament appearance and first since 2013. The Warriors are two-time champions (2010, ’11) and three-time runner-ups (2006, ’09 and ’13). Warroad was ranked No. 3 in the final poll and did not play any tournament entrants during the season.
Section 6A Alexandria (18-7-1) vs. (No. 3) Section 4A St. Paul United (21-5-1) —1:00 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17: The Cardinals of Alexandria are making their fourth consecutive and 11th overall tournament appearance and seek a second title to accompany their first in 2008. Alexandria went home with the consolation trophy for the second consecutive season in 2015. The Cardinals were ranked No. 9 in this season’s final Let’s Play Hockey poll and did not face any other Class A qualifiers during the regular season. St. Paul United is making its second state tournament appearance and first since 2014 when they captured the third-place trophy. St. Paul United, a co-op between St. Paul Academy and Visitation, was ranked No. 5 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. St. Paul United recorded a 5-1 victory over tournament entrant Proctor/Hermantown in late November.
Section 3A Luverne (20-6-0) vs. (No. 1) Section 5A The Blake School (23-2-2) —6:00 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17: Luverne is making its state tournament debut. Luverne, which co-ops with Adrian, was not ranked in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. The Cardinals did not play any other Class A entrants during the regular season. The Blake School is in the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season and ninth overall. The Bears captured championships in 2003, ’07, ’09, ’13, and ’14. The Blake School, ranked No. 2 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll, was the runner-up in 2015. During the regular season, the Bears had two victories over St. Paul United (3-1 and 3-2) and a 1-0 victory over Proctor/Hermantown.
(No. 5) Section 2A New Prague (17-9-1) vs. (No. 4) Section 7A Proctor/Hermantown (19-7-1) — 8:00 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17: This is a rematch of the season-opener that Proctor/Hermantown won 3-1. New Prague is in the state tournament for the fifth time, but first since 2008. In its state tournament debut in 2004, the Trojans were the Class A runner-up. New Prague was ranked No. 7 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. In addition to Proctor/Hermantown, New Prague also faced tournament entrant Northfield and recorded a 3-0 victory. Proctor/Hermantown has qualified for the state tournament for the third time and first since 2014. In 2010, Proctor/Hermantown also had a co-op with the Marshall School in Duluth. The Mirage finished No. 6 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. In addition to playing New Prague, Proctor/Hermantown also played St. Paul United during the regular season, losing 5-1.
CLASS 2A HIGHLIGHTS
Section 3AA Eastview (18-6-4) vs. (No. 2 seed) Section 6AA Edina (19-7-1) — 11:00 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 18: The unranked Lightning of Eastview are making their second consecutive state tournament appearance. After losing to eventual state champion, Hill-Murray, in the quarterfinals, Eastview went on to finish as the runner-up in the consolation bracket. Eastview, located in Apple Valley, was ranked No. 17 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. During the regular season, Eastview tied (1-1) and lost (5-2) to Lakeville South. Edina is in the state tournament for the second consecutive season and sixth time overall. In 2015, the Hornets took the third-place trophy with a 3-1 victory over Lakeville South. Edina was the big-school runner-up in 2010 and ’11. The Hornets, ranked No. 3 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll, lost to Hill-Murray (2-0) during the regular season and split two games with Eden Prairie. They also had a 4-1 victory over Maple Grove in the season opener and a 4-2 loss to Lakeville South during the holiday break.
Section 7AA Forest Lake (18-7-3) vs. (No. 3) Section 2AA Eden Prairie (19-7-2) — 1:00 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18: Forest Lake is making its third state tournament appearance and first since 2013. The Rangers also qualified in 2001. Forest Lake, ranked No. 14 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll, did not face any other Class AA entrants during the regular season. Eden Prairie is making seventh state tournament appearance. The Eagles’ best finish in that run were big-school titles in 2006 and ’08. The Eagles were ranked No. 4 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. In addition to splitting two games with Edina during Lake Conference play, the Eagles defeated Lakeville South 3-0 in the season opener and lost to Maple Grove 3-1 before the holiday break. Eden Prairie also played Hill-Murray, losing 4-1 in the second game of the season.
Section 8AA Sartell/Sauk Rapids (21-7-0) vs. (No. 1) Section 4AA Hill-Murray (27-0-1) — 6:00 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18: Sartell/Sauk Rapids defeated Roseau 2-0 in the section final to qualify for its first state tournament appearance. The Storm’N’Sabers were not ranked in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll and didn’t play any Class AA entrants during the regular season. Hill-Murray has been a tournament regular in recent seasons. The Maplewood-based school is making its fourth consecutive state tournament appearance and fifth overall. The undefeated Pioneers were top ranked in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. During the Pioneers’ undefeated regular season, they defeated Eden Prairie (4-1), Lakeville South (3-2), Edina (2-0) and Maple Grove (4-1).
(No. 5) Section 1AA Lakeville South (20-5-2) vs. (No. 4) Section 5AA Maple Grove (20-5-2) — 8:00 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18: Lakeville South is making its second consecutive state tournament and fourth overall. In 2015, the Cougars finished fourth in the big-school field. Lakeville South finished at No. 12 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. During the regular season, Lakeville South had a tie and a victory over Eastview during South Suburban Conference play. The Cougars also had losses to Eden Prairie and Hill-Murray. Maple Grove qualified for its first state tournament following a 4-1 victory over Centennial in the Section 5AA championship game. Maple Grove was ranked No. 5 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll. During the regular season, the Crimson had a victory over Eden Prairie and losses to Edina and Hill-Murray.
Consolation semifinals in Class A will be played at 10 a.m. and noon on Thursday, Feb. 18 at Ridder Arena. The consolation championship will be played at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20 at Ridder Arena. In Class AA, the consolation semifinal games will be played at 10 a.m. and noon on Friday, Feb. 19 at Ridder Arena. The consolation championship will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, at Ridder Arena.
The Class A championship semifinals will take place at the Xcel Energy Center on Friday, Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The championship semifinal games for Class AA will be played at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday at Xcel Energy Center.
The Class A third-place game will be played at 9 a.m. on Saturday, February 20, at the Xcel Energy Center, and the Class AA third-place game will follow at 11 a.m. Both championship games will then be conducted in one session starting with the Class A game at 4 p.m. The Class AA title game will begin at 7 p.m.