The Minnesota State High School Playoffs get kicked off tonight. The Minnesota Hockey Hub has all your brackets here.
For things just getting underway, tonight has a pretty decent schedule. In Section 7AA, which maybe isn't the strongest section, but from my vantage point, the least predictable, Grand Rapids travels down to take on Forest Lake, and two high scoring Mr. Hockey candidates in Cal Decowski and Joey Benik face off when St. Francis takes on Andover. My prediction on final score: 20-18 Andover with an empty-netter. And up north, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley tries to avoid going an imperfect 0-24-0 when they face Crookston.
Anyway, with things getting started up, I should probably put my predictions down on the interwebs. You can read them after the jump...
Section 1AA- I don't always subscribe to the theory of this Section being that horrible, but this year; yikes. Burnsville has to be wondering why their trip to the state tournament has to go through Bloomington Jefferson and Edina, and Lakeville South, ten miles south of Burnsville, gets to go through Winona and Rochester Century. In any case, I'm going with Rochester Century to make it through. Three reasons: 1. I was very impressed by their coaching staff when they made the state tournament a couple years ago. 2. Brock Kautz is an excellent goalie. 3. They have the best fight song in the state. (Worst: Andover)
Section 2AA- The Big One Part 1. Burnsville and Holy Angels are nice teams, but I still think you'll see Edina and Bloomington Jefferson at the Target Center this year. As much as I'd like to see Jefferson break through, I think Edina will win. The Hornets don't have the top end talent they had last year, but when they are playing their game, they can skate and hit with anyone in the state and can take anyone off of their game. They've played extremely well in some big games this year. Plus, I once GoogleEarthed the most famous Edina cake-eater of all-time, Adam Banks, and his address came up as a bank right across from the Target Center, so the final practically a home game for Edina.
Section 3AA- This one is right up there with Section 7AA in terms of unpredictability. Woodbury was the favorite before the season, but never played up to expectations. I didn't get a chance to see them play, but Eagan sort of came out of nowhere with some really nice results to earn the top seed. I wouldn't be surprised if Cretin pulled out the win in the section final, but for now, I'll pick Eagan to advance.
Section 4AA- This is basically known as the Hill-Murray/White Bear Lake section and this year is no different. A lot of people consider H-M/WBL the state's best rivalry, and I'll agree it's very good, but it would be a little more interesting if White Bear won one of these a little more often. I don't think this year is it though. Hill-Murray should win this pretty easily.
Section 5AA- Exact same story as Section 4AA except replace Hill-Murray with Blaine and White Bear Lake with Centennial. The depth in this bracket is pretty good though. Osseo got the 4th seed, which is bad news for Blaine since Osseo gave them fits this year, and Maple Grove/Centennial should be a good semifinal. But as per usual, I think it will come down to Blaine and Centennial at the State Fairgrounds. Centennial won the regular season series, but I can't pick against Blaine after many straight years of playing their best hockey in the section final.
Section 6AA- The Big One Part 2. These games are already being touted as better than the state tournament, and it's tough to argue against that. Minnetonka is the best team on paper, but that hasn't exactly worked out for them the past two years. The defending state champs in Eden Prairie have to go through Wayzata and then Minnetonka to make it back to the tournament, which seems almost impossible, but I have a feeling Eden Prairie will pull off a couple upsets and make it through.
Section 7AA- Like I said, the least predictable bracket here. I saw Grand Rapids take on Elk River earlier this year, and I came away thinking the two were at almost exactly the same level. Elk River is seeded #1 and Grand Rapids is seeded #5. It seems foolish to take the top seed with so much potential for upset but I'll pick Elk River. ER's top five skaters are the strongest in the sections, and I think the Elks can ride them to the state tournament.
Section 8AA- Minor controversy here as some people didn't think Roseau deserved the number #2 seed--and thus home ice advantage when they take on third seed Brainerd--but in all honesty, this section is almost always about Moorhead vs. Roseau. Each team won one game against the other on the road this year. Moorhead has a little more size, but I think Roseau's top guys have a little more speed. I've always been a big fan of how the Rams play hockey, so I'll pick Roseau.
Class A gets less of a write-up...
Section 1A-*shrug* This one is always fun because there's always four or five really solid teams that could win the whole thing. I'll take New Prague.
Section 2A- Breck.
Section 3A-Just a weak, weak bracket. Hutchinson, I guess.
Section 4A-St. Thomas Academy.
Section 7A-International Falls.
Section 8A-Warroad. Scouts will breathe a sigh of relief when they get an opportunity to see Brock Nelson play against better competition.