This week the district playoffs start to roll. Congratulations to all the regular season district Champions (D1-Highland, D2-White Bear Lake, D3-Wayzata, D4 East-New Prague, D4 West-Mankato, D5-St. Michael/Albertville, D6-Edina, D8-Rosemount, D10 Blue-Elk River, D10 Green-Rogers, D11-Duluth East, D12-Grand Rapids, D15-Moorhead, and D16-East Grand Forks).
The D4 play-in games were played last weekend. Luverne won the #3 seed in the D4 West and Owatonna won the #3 seed in the D4 East to complete the D4 playoff field. Austin, Marshall, Albert Lea and New Ulm all ended their season. Cottage Grove’s season ended when they did not make the D8 top 10 teams.
The 97 Fire is playing in the Quebec International PeeWee Hockey Tourney held in Quebec City, Quebec. Play in the 11 day tournament started last week. Fifty six teams are entered. Each tourney game has 15 minute periods but has to be played in 75 minutes (clock time) including cleaning the ice. That is less ice time then a D6 league game (14 minute periods played in 75 minutes without cleaning the ice).
The 97 Fire opened play against Slovakia K&B, losing 6-5 in overtime. The Fire held leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, and 5-3 (with two minutes to go in the game). Slovakia came back to tie the score and scored in the first two minutes of OT to win the game. The Fire beat the Montreal Juniors 2-0 to advance. They play the Gatineau Olympics in their next game.
The 98 and the 97 Fire have had peewee A teams play on weekends in Summerset as part of their preparation for a tourney like the Quebec tourney. The 97 Fire played in the Roseau tourney in mid-January and did well, losing the championship to Edina 4-3 in a shootout. The 97 Fire have also played 20 games against Minnesota peewee A teams and have a 16-4 record.
It is nice to see a regional team competing well. It would be great to the 97 Fire make the final championship round. But they need to tell the Quebec Tourney organizers that they are the Wisconsin Fire (not the Minnesota Fire). That’s peewee hockey. Some times the kids get it right on the ice, sometimes the adults get it wrong in the stands.
Here is a quote for the opening of playoffs this day (from an unknown source in Alexandria-excuse the re-phrasing). “A grandfather wanted to know from his grandson how heavy the championship trophy was? About 3 pounds was the answer. However (the grandfather said), it takes an entire team to hoist it.”
North Region - Two of the three district tourneys (D12 and D2) start this weekend. D11 starts Monday.
There are no changes in the North this week. In the North Red, the projected teams are: Cloquet, Stillwater, Grand Rapids, and Duluth East; in the North Blue, the projected teams are: White Bear Lake, Duluth Lakers, Greenway, and Roseville. D11 projections changed this week. Cloquet replaces the Duluth Lakers as the #1 seed, the Duluth Lakers take the #2 seed and switch pools with Duluth East (the #3 seed).
District 11 - Cloquet ended the season playing well. Last week, they were rated #1 here in D11. But based on season rankings, the Lumberjacks ended up with the #4 seed and play a tough Proctor team in the first game of the D11 playoffs Monday at Fryberger. The winner of that game will play Duluth East, the D11 regular season champion and #1 playoff seed the next day.
Cloquet has beaten Proctor twice this season, 6-0 in mid-November and 4-3 in mid-January. The Lumberjacks should win, but it should be a good game to watch. Duluth East has beaten Proctor twice (3-2 and 6-0). The Hounds have beaten Cloquet 6-5 and tied Cloquet 3-3. The winner of this semifinal game is assured a regional seed. The loser drops to the playoff for the #2 or #3 seed.
The #2 seeded Duluth Lakers and the #3 seeded Hermantown play in the other semifinal. The winner gets a seed to the regional. The loser starts all over again and has to eliminate two teams to get to the regional tourney. The two teams have played each other four times this year. The Lakers have won 7-4, 3-2 and 4-2. There was one tie 3-3.
The seeds are unchanged this week; the #1 seed goes to Cloquet, the Lakers take the #2 seed and Duluth East the #3 seed. Hermantown is one game away from the regional, Proctor and Cloquet need to win two games.
District 12 - The D12 playoffs began this Friday (Feb 19th) at the Hipp in Eveleth. Grand Rapids takes the #1 seed into the playoffs. The Thunderhawks have a bye and will play the winner of #4 Greenway/#5 Eveleth game. The Rapids have beaten Eveleth twice this season (7-2 and 8-0); but they have split with Greenway losing to them 2-1 at home and beating them 6-1 away.
In the other side of the playoff, Hibbing finished second and take the #2 seed in the playoffs. The Bluejackets will play the winner of the #3 International Falls/#6 Virginia game. The Broncos and the Bluejackets have split their two league games this year. The Broncos beat Hibbing 3-2 and lost to Hibbing 4-1.
With the playoffs starting in two day, the seeds remain unchanged. Greenway takes the #1 seed and the Rapids the #2 seed. But International Falls and Hibbing are playing well.
District 2 - White Bear Lake beat Mahtomedi 3-1 and Irondale 7-0 to end their D2 season last week. Stillwater ended their D2 season beating Mahtomedi 5-1. That left White Bear Lake on top of the D2 regular season standings and the #1 seed going into the playoffs this Saturday at Tartan.
White Bear Lake will play Tartan in the opener. The Bears have beaten the Titans twice in regular season action. In the other side of the bracket, #4 Mahtomedi plays the #5 seed Forest Lake. Mahtomedi has beaten Forest Lake twice this season by identical 4-2 scores. The Bears are the favorite to win the semifinal game and a North Regional seed. They have beaten Mahtomedi twice and Forest Lake twice this season.
Stillwater finished second and took the #2 seed. The Ponies play #7 North St. Paul in the opener in the other bracket. Mounds View beat Tartan 4-1 and Roseville 4-2. That put the Mustangs in third place. Their win over Roseville in their last D2 regular season game, dropped the Raiders into a three-way tie with Forest Lake and Mahtomedi. The result is that Mounds View and Roseville will tangle in the final first round game of the playoffs.
The Mounds View/Roseville game is going to be a good game played at 7:00 Saturday (in the bubble!). The winner of that game should challenge the Ponies for a seed to the North Regional in the semifinals played next Tuesday. The Ponies have beaten Mounds View twice (2-0 and 5-2) and Roseville twice (5-1 and 3-2).
The seeds remain unchanged this week, White Bear Lake takes the #1 seed, and Stillwater takes the #2 seed and Roseville the #3 seed. The #3 seed is really a toss up between Roseville, Mounds View, Mahtomedi, and Forest Lake. That makes for an exciting playoff.
East Region - Burnsville didn’t need to take 3 points (2 point win plus an “unfairplay” point) in their D6 season ending game with Apple Valley. But they played the Eagles with minimum physical contact, avoiding any collisions especially along the boards as if they needed it.
Apple Valley took advantage and turned the game into an up and down shootout for the first half of the game. The score was 4-3 at the end of the first period. The final score was 11-5. The Blaze won. Valley has a young team and is struggling playing in last place in D6. But with any good peewee A team, if you don’t play the game aggressively, they will beat you. Burnsville was fortunate that they were a stronger skating team that night. They kept their “unfairplay” point. They edged Eden Prairie in the D6 standings for second, by a single point. They got their bye.
Now the Blaze move on to the playoffs where there are no “unfairplay” points. They can play hockey.
For the third week in a row, there are no changes in the East regional pools. In the East Red this week, the projected teams are: Farmington, Burnsville, Mpls Park, and Lakeville North; in the East Blue, the projected teams are: Edina, Woodbury, Highland, and Eden Prairie. Lakeville North edges Lakeville South this week. Lakeville South, Rosemount, Rochester, Eastview, and Prior Lake/Savage all have a shot to be in this region.
District 1 - The D1 playoffs start next Monday at Highland. The final seeds have yet to be posted, but the Monday 5:40 game will have Highland playing either Irondale or the Saint Paul Saints and the 7:40 game will have Mpls Park playing either Irondale or the Saints.
The winners play each other for the D1 championship and the #1 seed to the East Regional. The losers will play each other for the right to play the championship game loser for the #2 seed to the East.
Highland has emerged as the team to beat in D1. Twice in the past three weeks they have beaten a tough Mpls Park team (a team that contended for the D3 regular season crown). Highland beat North St. Paul 5-1 in their last D2 game this year. They finished their D2 season beating every team once except Stillwater. The Caps could have beaten the Ponies is they weren’t a no show for their regular season game at Highland (the Ponies beat them later in the season at the Ponies arena). Highland will move to D2 next year.
Mpls Park will move to D3 next year. For the last two years the Storm has been competitive in D3 and they made the state tourney a year ago. This year, they played almost half of their D3 schedule in the last three weeks of the season and could salvage only a single 2-2 tie with Orono out of their final six D3 games. Still they look good to take the second regional seed in the D1 playoffs, but the Saints could challenge them.
The Saints played another string of games last week. They lost to Forest Lake 3-2 in a D2 game, lost to Coon Rapids 2-1, beat North Metro 3-0, lost to Highland 6-2 and lost to North St. Paul 4-3 to end their D2 and regular season.
Unlike the Saints, Irondale has played few games since the first of the year and practiced regularly three and four times a week. Unfortunately they will have to play either Highland or Mpls Park in their D1 playoff opener.
This week, Highland Central takes the #1 seed and the Storm takes the #2 seed.
District 6 - Edina and Burnsville took first and second (and the #1/#2 seeds) in D6 regular season play. Eden Prairie is all alone in third place. Eastview and Prior Lake took fourth and fifth, the last two spots in the D6 playoff. Minnetonka leads a group of five teams (Chaska, Jefferson, Kennedy and Apple Valley) into the wild card portion of the D6 playoffs for the sixth and last spot. The wild card tourney opens on the 17th at Pagel Arena in Minnetonka with Apple Valley playing Kennedy.
Edina and Burnsville have byes to the semifinal round. To gain a seed to the East Regional, they have to win one game. Should they lose that game, they have to win two more games to get a seed. That makes Monday’s (Feb 22nd) semifinal games the games to see.
Edina will open play that evening against the winner of Eastview/wild card game on Sunday. Eastview has played well in the past month and will rely heavily on their defense to stop the Hornets provided the Lightning get past the wild card winner. Minnetonka is the favorite to take the wild card and the Lightning have split their two games with the Skippers. Last week, Edina ended their D6 season with wins over Eden Prairie 7-1 and Jefferson 12-2. This week the Hornets play Farmington and the visiting Fargo Flyers. Last week, the Lightning ended their D6 season beating Apple Valley, Chaska and Kennedy.
On Monday, Burnsville will play the winner of Eden Prairie and Prior Lake. The Eagles beat the Lakers last Saturday 4-3 and have an early season 6-3 win also. Burnsville has beaten Eden Prairie twice this season and has split two early season games with the Lakers (winning 8-4 and losing 9-4). Last week, the Blaze beat Apple Valley 11-5 to end the Blaze D6 season.
Burnsville has played 14 games since the holidays; the Hornets have played 29 games. Burnsville has a higher ratio of practice/training to games then Edina; but does it matter for peewee age kids? Edina has beaten the Blaze 3 times this year, 6-4 and 3-2 in early December and 7-3 in late January.
The winner of the Apple Valley/Kennedy game plays Minnetonka in the second round of the wild card. Tonka has beaten both teams twice this season. Kennedy has been playing well. Last week, Kennedy beat Armstrong 3-2, lost to Orono 3-2, lost to Prior Lake 4-2, and pushed Eastview Sunday before losing 2-0. Jefferson and Chaska tangle in the other second round game. Jefferson has beaten Chaska twice (6-3 and last week 9-3).
D6 has been consistent all year in the seeds. Edina keeps the #1 seed. Burnsville takes the #2 seed and Eden Prairie the #3 seed.
District 8 - The top seven teams in D8 had 35 to 41 points. That is a balanced league. For the past month, Farmington (#5 seed/35 points) has played the best among those seven teams and should take the #1 regional seed coming out of the district playoffs. The Tigers open play against Lakeville South (#4 seed/36 points), a team they lost to 2-1 back in November. The winner will most likely play Rosemount, a team Farmington has tied twice this season.
Lakeville South lost both their league games last week, 3-2 to Lakeville North in their rivalry game and 5-2 to South St. Paul. The game against North was a well skated game between two good teams, but the Panthers used their size and a good short passing game to mount continuous pressure on the Cougars. Lakeville South had few shots on goal in the first two periods. A crowd of about 500 plus watched the game at Ames.
Rosemount has the #1 seed to the district playoffs. The Irish earned that by going 5-0-2 in their last seven league games, tying Woodbury and Farmington. They will open the D8 playoffs against the winner of Eagan/Hastings (they have beaten Eagan twice this year and Hastings once). In their tie with Farmington last Thursday, the Irish took advantage of the Tigers’ short bench (11 kids) and their speed at forward to take a two goal lead into the third period. The Tigers came back to score the tying goal in the last minute of the game. Rosemount also beat South St. Paul; lost to STMA 5-3; and played Prior Lake last week.
Woodbury took second place and will open their D8 playoffs against the South St. Paul/Sibley winner. The Royals ended their regular season with a 4-3 win over Hudson in their only game played last week. They have beaten South St. Paul and Sibley in regular season play. The #7 seed, South St. Paul, takes on the #10 seed Sibley in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams have been playing well in the past month. In the last two week, the Packers have beaten Lakeville South and Hastings 7-2; Sibley had a good Duluth tourney.
Rochester took the #3 seed (with 38 points). They open play against Lakeville North (the #6 seed with 35 points). Rochester beat the Panthers 5-0 two weeks ago. In the last first round game Eagan plays Hastings. The Wildcats beat Hastings 3-2 two weeks ago. Both teams are struggling as the playoffs start. Cottage Grove, this year’s D8 playoff host, finished 11th and did not make the playoffs.
Hudson finished fourth this year in D8 with 36 points. They ended their season with the loss to Woodbury on Sunday. Congratulations to the Raiders on a successful season (winning tourneys and being ranked in the top twenty of Minnesota peewee A teams).
The D8 playoffs start on Sunday, Feb 21st. All four opening round Sunday games are a toss up. Rosemount and Woodbury by finishing first and second do not play until Thursday. Rosemount should play Farmington. After two ties, this game will have a winner this time. Farmington, if they are healthy should have the edge. Woodbury should advance to the semis.
Woodbury has had their own health problems in the past two weeks and playing either Rochester or Lakeville North in the semis will not make the Royals any healthier. They should win. But both Rochester and North have been playing some of their best hockey. This semifinal is a close call, but the loser of this semifinal should take the #3 seed.
The D8 regional seeds change this week. Farmington takes the #1 seed and Woodbury the #2 seed. Lakeville North takes the #3 seed. The Panthers were impressive when they beat Lakeville South 3-2 last weekend. They look dangerous. The question is can they play that way against another good physical team in Rochester.
South Region - In the South this week, 22 peewee A teams are left in the chase. D4 completed their play-in games last weekend. D3 and D5 completed their regular season play.
The districts in this region have had their playoff formats finalized for more then a month. Wayzata (D3), Mankato (D4 West), New Prague (D4 East), and STMA (D5) were the champs in each of their regular season leagues. Orono spoiled the Wayzata/OMG title match-up last weekend and could spoil the playoff title match-up between the same two teams this weekend. Hopkins tied for second and almost took the D3 #2 seed from OMG.
In D4, the play-in games were completed and the playoffs at Le Seuer are set to open this Friday. In D5, STMA survived a strong season ending challenge from Hutchinson to win the title as the D5 playoffs open this coming Friday in Litchfield.
But nothing happened this week to change the South Regional pools this week. In the South Red this week, the projected teams are: Wayzata, Hutchinson, New Prague, and Faribault; in the South Blue, the projected teams are: STMA, Osseo/Maple Grove, St. Peter and Hopkins.
District 3 - Wayzata and Osseo Maple Grove were suppose to tangle in the championship game for the D3 title. OMG needed to beat Orono three days before that match and they lost 3-2. But that did not keep a crowd of around 500 fans attending the game in the smaller PIC rink (home ice for Providence Academy). OMG now needed a win or a tie to keep second place and a bye in the playoffs. They played a great game and really had the Trojans on the run for two periods. OMG led 2-0 going into the third, started to struggle, and gave up two goals. But the tie was enough to tie Hopkins in points for second place and OMG held the tie breaker.
Wayzata played the OMG game without one of their better players. This Sunday, the Trojans will play the winner of Orono/Armstrong in the one game needed to get a regional seed. Orono has beaten Armstrong twice this season (7-1 and 6-0), but the Falcons pushed Hopkins last week before losing 6-3.
The Trojans have had Orono’s number this year, beating the Spartans 6-3 and 4-1. These two teams will be playing on the smaller PIC ice on Sunday and it should be quite a game.
OMG plays the winner of the North Metro/Hopkins game. North Metro and Hopkins played a month ago with Hopkins winning 4-2. The Royals also hold an earlier season win over the Pirates 6-2. OMG has beaten Hopkins 3-2 and 4-2.
The semifinal losers play with the first round losers for the third seed and it could get tough for the Wayzata/Orono loser. Wayzata and Osseo/Maple Grove are still headed for a showdown this weekend for the #1 seed, only this weekend it is for the #1 seed to the South Regional. Hopkins and Orono look to battle for third, but a Hopkins/OMG semifinal looks to be the best game of the D3 playoff.
This week, Wayzata keeps the #1 seed. OMG takes the #2 seed. Hopkins takes the #3 seed. Orono’s upset of OMG, while surprising, was not enough this week to overtake OMG or Hopkins. OMG played two very good, powerful periods, against Wayzata. This weekend, they look ready to play three powerful periods. Orono will have their shot, twice on the weekend. The Spartans are good.
District 4 - Luverne and Owatonna won their play-in games for the D4 playoff and #3 seeds in the National and American pools. The D4 playoff starts this Friday at Le Seuer. Mankato #1 seed will open American Division pool play against Owatonna. Mankato had last week off. The third team in the American is Faribault. Mankato beat Owatonna 5-0 two weeks ago and tied Faribault 2-2 in early December. Faribault beat Owatonna twice in early December and is coming off a nice 6-2 win over Red Wing last week.
Owatonna beat Albert Lea in an evenly matched play-in game 3-2 in OT. The game was played at Owatonna.
Both teams played a very physical game. With less then two minutes in the third period left, Albert Lea tied the score. They had been killing penalties most of the last half of the third period and finally got five players on the ice. But they lost in OT when a ref called a penalty on Albert Lea during a melee around Albert Lea’s net. Thirty seconds later, Owatonna scored to end the game.
The ref that made the penalty call was on the other side of the red line when he made the call and both refs ignored the two Owatonna players in the crease (one on his knees) when the puck was passed from behind the net seconds before the call.
The other opening game on Friday has New Prague playing Luverne. The two teams did not meet in regular season play. St. Peter has played both teams. The Bulldogs are the third team in the National Division pool. They beat New Prague 8-3 and 3-2; they beat Luverne 6-4 and 4-3 and lost to Luverne 4-3. This is a tough pool. Luverne beat Waseca 8-3 and New Ulm 6-1 to win their play-in games.
St. Peter remains #1, New Prague #2 and Mankato #3 in the chase for the South regional seeds.
District 5 - The seeds for the D5 playoffs are complete. With two regional seeds at stake, D5 playoff format is simple. All 10 teams play a #1 seed tourney until they lose. Then they drop into the #2 seed tourney. One more loss and they are out of the playoffs. The playoffs open Friday at Litchfield.
STMA takes the #1 seed and plays the winner of #8 MAML/#9 River Lakes games. MALM has beaten and tied River Lakes 3-1 and 2-2. STMA has beaten both teams twice, but MALM had potential earlier in the season to improve. The Stars will have their chance to show that in this playoff. River Lakes beat Litchfield 5-4 to end their season Sunday. STMA have really been a powerhouse in D5 since their struggles in the St. Cloud tourney. The Knights have gone 8-0-1 in their last nine games. They beat D10 Green champ Rogers 4-1 and D8 champ Rosemount (at Rosemount) 5-3. Their only blemish was a 2-2 tie with Hutchinson.
Crow River and Buffalo meet in the other side of the bracket. These two teams tied during regular season play 1-1 and 2-2. This will be Crow River’s last D5 tourney, the Tigers move to D3 next year. They ended their D5 season early and played two weekends ago in the Fergus Falls tourney, beating Crookston in OT for the championship. Buffalo is coming off of two tough back to back losses to Hutchinson 4-2 and 7-3.
Hutchinson has the #2 seed and plays the winner of Litchfield/Willmar in their opening playoff game. The Hutch has beaten both teams twice in regular season play. In the other side of the bracket, Sartell plays Mound/Westonka. The Sabres have beaten the Whitehawks twice this year 4-2 and 5-1. This will be Mound/Westonka’s last D5 tourney; they move to D3 next year.
Sartell and Hutchinson are favored to meet in the semifinal game. The winner will still need another victory to gain a seed to the South Regional. These two teams split their games this year, Sartell won 6-3 in November, Hutchinson won 1-0 in late January.
A week ago, D5 looked wide open, but STMA’s play this past week shows improvement and the Knights had a good team before that. It is hard to not give them the #1 seed. Hutch has ended their season on an up note and is equally hard to ignore. The question then becomes can Crow River, Hutchinson and Sartell upset one of those two? STMA remains the #1 seed this week; Hutchinson gets the #2 seed.
West Region - After play-ins and regular season, 24 teams are left standing entering playoffs this weekend. The three districts in the West have similar playoff tourney formats with eight teams entered in each tourney. D16, with only two regional seeds this year, is a single elimination tourney this year. The D16 playoff approach could really impact the potential West Region divisions and puts both East Grand Forks and Bemidji’s potential seeds up in the air.
The D10 playoffs favor Elk River taking a seed, most likely the #1 seed, but puts Centennial/Andover on a collision course where the loser of that game would have a tough play back to gain a seed. Rogers/Champlin Park winner and the Spring Lake Park/St. Francis winner will find themselves one game away from the West Regional.
In D15, Moorhead has a clear shot at a seed while Alexandria and Detroit Lakes will likely play each other for a spot in the playoff finals.
In the West Red this week, the projected teams are: Alexandria, Bemidji, Elk River, and Andover; in the West Blue, the projected teams are: East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Centennial, and Detroit Lakes. But the way the district playoffs have matched teams, these pools will likely change in five days.
District 10 - Like the D8 playoffs, the D10 playoffs open Sunday, Feb 21st at Champlin Park. The top four finishers in each division are automatically seeded to the playoffs based on the position they finished in their division. The Blue #1 and #4 seeds play each other (Elk River and Blaine) in one bracket and the Green #1 and #4 seeds play each other (Rogers and Champlin Park) in the other bracket.
The #2 and #3 teams in each division cross over and play in the bracket with the #1 seed from the other division. In the Elk River bracket, #2 Spring Lake Park plays #3 St. Francis; and in the Rogers bracket, #2 Centennial plays #3 Andover.
Elk River looks to dominate their bracket. If the Elks do so, then they will make the finals and get a seed to the West Regional. Blaine appears to be the Elks’ biggest obstacle. The Bengals went 7-2-2 in their last 11 league games. Their two loses were to the Elks 6-3 and Andover 6-2. The Bengals have had a good month.
In the other bracket game, Spring Lake Park plays St. Francis. The Panthers played well at the DAHA tourney 10 days ago, pushing Hopkins and Hermantown before losing close games. They returned to tie CINB 3-3 last week to finish second in the Green. St. Francis has played well also tying Blaine 1-1 and losing to Elk River 6-3 in the last two weeks. Either team will push the winner of the Elk River/Blaine game for that regional seed.
Andover was sailing along until in a D10 battle for first with Elk River until the last three weeks of the season. The Huskies won two of their last five D10 games. Their woes started with a 2-1 loss to Centennial, the team they play in the playoffs opener. Centennial has really put things together. Three weeks ago, they were faced with being eliminated from the D10 playoffs; needing every win and playing Andover and Elk River back to back. They won both those games, went on to have a good White Bear Lake tourney finishing second. This game looks to be the best game in the D10 opening round.
Rogers took the #1 seed via tie breaker in the Green. The Green was so balanced that at one point in January, six of the seven teams in the Green were in a virtual tie for first place. Rogers plays #4 seed Champlin Park in their bracket. They have lost to the Rebels twice this season (2-0, 3-0) in league play. Last week the Royals lost to STMA 4-1 and beat Princeton 6-1. Champlin Park had a tough week, losing to St. Cloud 3-1 and Anoka 3-0.
The D10 playoff draw leans toward Elk River and the winner of Andover/Centennial playing in the final game; but the other five teams can not be discounted. The Spring Lake Park/St. Francis winner will give the Elks a tough game and the Rogers/Champlin Park will challenge also. The semifinal games played at Champlin Park on Tuesday (the 23rd) should be fun to watch.
Centennial continues to play well and keep the #1 seed this week; the Elks keep the #2 seed. But Andover has struggled and Blaine, Rogers, St. Francis and SLP will all challenge the Huskies. Andover keeps the #3 seed, barely.
District 15 - D15 playoff is official. All eight teams will play in the playoffs. The playoff format is similar to D16’s and D10’s. Eight teams will play in the opening round with the semifinal winners guaranteed either the #1 or #2 West regional seed. The losers will play for the #3 West regional seed. The tourney will start this Friday in Moorhead.
Moorhead, as regular season champions, open the tourney against Prairie Centre. In the other bracket game, Brainerd plays Fergus Falls. Moorhead has beaten Prairie Centre twice in regular season play. Brainerd and Fergus Falls played their regular season games with each other in November and early December. The Warriors won both games (11-2 and 5-0) and will be favored in this game.
The Spuds hold two season victories over Brainerd. They beat the Warriors 4-1 before Thanksgiving Day 4-1 and beat them again last week 7-2. In an interesting quirk, the Spuds opened their D15 season in mid-November with a 7-1 win over Fergus Falls. They ended their D15 season on Valentine’s Day beating Fergus Falls 7-1. Brainerd tied a good Anoka team last week 4-4, beat a tough Sartell team 3-2 and lost to Bemidji 5-0.
Alexandria took second place in D15 and the #2 seed. They open the playoffs against the #7 seed Wadena. Alex has not lost in their last 12 games and beat Moorhead 3-2 a month ago. They beat Wadena twice in regular season play. In the other side of the bracket, Detroit Lakes plays Northern Lakes. Detroit Lakes has two regular season wins over Northern Lake.
Alex and Detroit Lakes are favored to meet in the semifinal game. These two teams split in two early season D15 games, Alex winning 9-3 and Detroit Lakes winning 5-4 in OT. Alex closed out their regular season last week beating West Fargo 5-1 and Willmar 6-0. Detroit Lakes played tough in losing two of their last three D15 games (Brainerd 2-1 and Moorhead 3-2). If they make it to the semifinals, Alex and the Lakers game will be the game to see in D15. The team that loses this semifinal game will likely battle Brainerd and Fergus Falls for the #3 seed.
Alex keeps the #1 seed this week; Moorhead takes the #2 seed. Detroit Lakes takes the #3 seed.
District 16 - The D16 tourney opens this Friday at Roseau. The winner of the Saturday afternoon’s semifinal games will determine the two West Regional seeds from D16. East Grand Forks finished their D16 season unbeaten and with the #1 seed. They play the #8 seed Lake of the Woods (LOW) in their opening game in bracket play. The Green Wave had a good week, beating LOW, Detroit Lakes 8-1, and the Fargo Angels 7-6.
The #4 seed Thief River Falls plays #5 seed Roseau in the other side of the bracket. These two teams tied 2-2 last week in a game played at TRF. TRF has a 3-2 win in a game played at Roseau in mid-January. The teams playing in this bracket are all playing well. The Green Wave should make the semis, but either Roseau or TRF could challenge them in what would be a “win or go home” game.
Bemidji with the #2 seed plays #7 Warroad in the lower bracket. The Lumberjacks have been playing steady hockey all season and own two regular seasons wins over Warroad (8-1 and 12-0). In the other side of the bracket, Crookston plays Hallock. The Pirates have beaten Hallock in regular season play.
Bemidji and Crookston are favored to meet in the other semifinal game. The Lumberjacks have two regular season wins over the Pirates (9-1 and 5-4). In prepatation for this playoffs, Bemidji played four games last weekend. They beat Brainerd 4-0, Hallock 7-0, LOW 9-2 and tied Roseau 3-3 last Sunday at Roseau. Crookston also finished the season strong. They beat Roseau 8-4 at Roseau last Saturday. The weekend before, the Pirates took second at the Fergus Falls tourney. They beat Mound/Westonka 7-1, Detroit Lakes 4-3, before losing to Crow River 7-6 in OT.
The semifinal games at Roseau will be great to watch. A real test of the four teams with the regional seeds at stake. East Grand Forks keeps the #1 seed, but the Green Wave better be prepared for the semifinal game. Bemidji keeps the #2 seed, but Crookston is playing tough. It would not be a surprise if either one or both of these seeds lose on Saturday.