USA TODAY Sports
Sixteen teams will earn their way to the XCel Energy Center for the State Tournament this week.
The Minnesota State High School Hockey tournament is considered one of the crown jewels of all of amateur sports. But for many high school hockey fans, this week, the week before the tournament, may be the best four days of hockey all year. Between Wednesday and Friday, all sixteen tickets to this year's state tournament will be punched, and along the way, there are bound to be some thrilling games between long-time local rivals.
For brackets and all the information you'll ever need on the road to the tournament, check out FollowThePuck.Here's a few more notes and thoughts on the tournament.
-If this is the best week of hockey in the state of Minnesota, then the pinnacle of that will be on Wednesday night at Mariucci Arena, when they host the finals for Section 2AA between Edina and Burnsville, and the Section 6AA final between Benilde-St. Margaret's and Wayzata. Those two sections are usually among the toughest in the state, and has produced some amazing games in the past. Mariucci is likely to be pretty close to full, which always makes for an electric atmosphere. These two games might deserve the full write-up treatment on Wednesday morning.
-Only one #1 seed has lost so far, and it was a pretty disappointing one. In Section 3A, Luverne was easily the most impressive team in southwest Minnesota this year, with some legitimate talent, and the Section's first real hope of ever being competitive at the state tournament. But the Cardinals ran into a hot goalie and were upset by #4 seed Marshall.
-There could be some new blood at the state tournament this year. Marshall is the new favorite in the aforementioned Section 3A, facing #6 Hutchinson in the final. The Tigers have only been to one section final before, and were shutout by Mankato East in that game. In Section 8AA, Brainerd has never been to the state tournament, but is facing off against a beatable Moorhead team in the final. Brainerd has had some good players go through their ranks over the years, but you have to head back to the mid-90's to find somebody besides Roseau or Moorhead going to the state tourney out of Section 8. Finally, they've been there before, but East Grand Forks is the heavy favorite in Section 8A to make their first tourney since the mid-80's.
-Section 2A, Breck is expected to walk through the competition, especially after the gong show at Mound-Westonka.
-In the ongoing battle of good vs. evil, five of the Class A finals will feature public schools that are legitimately Class A schools vs. private schools that draw from populations big enough that they should be playing in Class AA(assuming high seeds Delano and Mahtomedi win their semifinals)
-In Class 1AA, the final will be between #1 Lakeville North(10-16-1) and #3 Lakeville South(11-16-0). It's not a stellar year for the southern part of the state. The number of Twin Cities metro teams that can be squeezed into that section to strengthen it should be a contentious issue next time the section lines are redrawn,