As an old Yankee catcher would say, “the tough thing about predicting is that the games are all in the future.” He is right, so here are my predictions. I hope that I am wrong often so that it proves to all the regional entries another thing the catcher said. “It aint over until it’s over.” Congratulations to all 32 regional entries. You have done your parents, coaches, and associations well.
North Region - Duluth East opens Red Division play Friday against White Bear Lake at the St. Croix Valley Rec. Center in Stillwater. In the Red second game, Hibbing plays the Duluth Lakers. The Lakers have beaten the Bluejackets 7-3 this season, but have won only two of their last six games. Hibbing beat International Falls twice 4-3 and 3-2 in OT games to take the D12 #2 seed.
In the Red Friday evening games, Duluth East plays Hibbing and the Lakers play White Bear Lake. The Lakers/Bears game is the key game in the Red. In Saturday’s games Duluth East plays the Lakers and Hibbing plays White Bear Lake. The Hounds have beaten the Lakers three times this year (3-2, 4-1, and 5-2). They lost one game 2-1.
The Hounds are favored to beat the Lakers and Hibbing, but are an even bet against White Bear Lake. The Bears/Lakers game is a toss-up. Duluth East takes the #1 Red and in a coin flip, the Bears take the #2 Red.
In the Blue, Friday games have Stillwater playing Hermantown and Grand Rapids playing Roseville. Stillwater and Hermantown will be a tough game between two physical teams. The Ponies made the regional by beating Roseville 6-1 and White Bear Lake 3-2 last week. They have won 10 of their last twelve games, but their two loses were to Hastings 2-1 and to Cloquet 4-3 (in the Lumberjack’s tourney title game). The Hawks have been up and down all season, but they picked the right time to be up. After losing their district playoff opener, the Hawks came back to beat Proctor 3-1, Cloquet 2-1 and the Lakers 3-1 to take the #2 seed.
In Saturday’s games, Grand Rapids plays Stillwater and Roseville play Hermantown in the morning. In the evening, Hermantown and Rapids play and Stillwater and Roseville close out pool play. The Blue division teams are closely matched. Stillwater should have the edge (including home ice) to take the Blue #1. Roseville looks to struggle. That leaves the Rapids and Hermantown to battle for the #2 Blue. The Hawks beat the Rapids 3-2 a month ago. They should take the #2.
Sunday’s games would then have Duluth East playing Hermantown in a rematch of the D11 championship game won by the Hounds 4-2 and Stillwater playing the Bears in a rematch of the D2 championship game won by the Ponies 3-2. The Bears hold two season wins over the Ponies. Duluth East takes the #1 North to state and the Bears take the #2.
South Region - Last Friday, Wayzata beat Osseo/Maple Grove 6-1 in a re-match of the previous week’s D3 regular season title game that ended in a 2-2 tie. This time the trophy was the #1 D3 seed that goes to the playoff champion. OMG came out hard, took control of the game, and jumped to a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period on a tipped puck that slowed and slid under the goalie’s leg pad.
But OMG struggled halfway through the second period as the Trojans pounded in four goals in 5 minutes to jump to a 4-1. They never looked back and beat OMG 6-1. OMG takes the #2 seed.
In the first Friday game, Orono beat Hopkins 4-0 to take the #3 seed to the South Region. Hopkins showed up with a short bench (missing two players), a problem that has plagued the Royals all season. Orono jumped to a 2-0 first period lead and added two more to beat Hopkins. In one 30 second spree, Hopkins missed four point blank shots from less then 10 feet in front of the net. The Royals then controlled the puck for another minute until they got a shot on net that the Orono goal saved and held to end the rally. It was a tough game for the Royals.
The D3 playoff games were held at the PIC in a great rink for youth hockey. Nice sized arena, with great views, that make it a fun place to watch a game, until they turn on the sound system. It is so bad and so loud, that it was painful to have to listen to bursts of noise when action was stopped. For the D3 championship game, mercifully the attempts at music were minimized.
In opening games Friday, Wayzata plays Hutchinson and New Prague plays St. Peter at the Maple Grove Community Center. In Friday evening games in the Red Division, Wayzata plays New Prague and Hutchinson plays St. Peter.
Wayzata is a heavy favorite to sweep all three games in the Red and take the Red #1 seed into Sunday’s game for a seed to the state tourney. That leaves St. Peter in the spot light on Friday. If the Bulldogs can string two wins together, they will end Friday’s play with a lock on the Red #2 seed and will play on Sunday (both New Prague and Hutchinson would have two losses).
Hutchinson and St. Peter have played twice this season. The Tigers beat St. Peter 7-6 in late January and tied 4-4 in early December. New Prague beat St. Peter 5-1 in the D4 playoffs two weeks ago, but the Bulldogs hold two season wins over the Trojans (8-3, 3-2). Hutchinson and New Prague have not played each other. All three teams are evenly matched and there is no real favorite for the Red #2. New Prague gets the coin flip.
In the Blue Division’s Friday games, STMA plays Osseo/Maple Grove and Mankato plays Orono. STMA has a strong team, but OMG played well until the last half of the D3 championship game. OMG beat STMA 5-1 early in the season. Orono has improved over the last two months. Mankato surprised New Prague 6-3 in the D4 final.
The winner of the Saturday morning game between Orono and OMG will be the favorite to win the Blue #1. If OMG looses to STMA on Friday, they could be out of the tourney after the Saturday morning game. The final Blue Division game will be a repeat of the Orono Tourney semifinal game played in three months ago where STMA beat Orono 4-3 in one of the best played games all year.
After the last Blue game is played, there could be a three way tie for the Blue #1 and #2 seeds. Get out the tie breaker rules. Here the old zinc penny comes out. Orono takes the #1 and OMG takes the #2.
That sets up a draw on Sunday with Wayzata plays OMG for the third straight weekend with a berth in the state tourney on the line and Orono playing New Prague. The picks here are Wayzata takes the South #1 seed and Orono takes the South #2 seed to state.
East Region - Most of the action in the D8 playoffs came last weekend. Though D6 had decided on the three teams to get the seeds, there was a lot of action on the weekend to decide the three seeds. D1 was no different.
Highland took the #1 seed with a Thursday overtime win over Mpls Park. Saturday, the Saint Paul Saints beat Irondale 6-1 to setup a Sunday showdown with the Storm for the #2 seed. Mpls Park won 5-0.
Over in D6, Thursday, Edina beat Burnsville 5-4 for the right to go to D6 championship Saturday games at Apple Valley. Friday, Burnsville beat Eden Prairie 5-1 and moved on to a return match with Edina on championship Saturday. The Eagles took the #3 seed. In Saturday’s game, Burnsville beat Edina 5-4 to setup a Sunday match for D6 #1 seed and playoff championship. Edina won 5-3.
Rosemount beat Hastings 2-0 in D8 play on Thursday and Woodbury beat South St. Paul 2-1 to complete the quartfinal round. In play back games, Lakeville South beat Eagan 4-1 to eliminate the Wildcats and Lakeville North beat Sibley 9-1 to end the Generals season.
In Saturday’s games, Farmington beat Rosemount 4-1 in D8 semifinal and Rochester beat Woodbury 7-3 in the second game. Lakeville South beat South St. Paul 4-2 and Lakeville North beat Hastings 6-1 eliminating the Packers and the Raiders. In evening play, Woodbury beat Lakeville South 5-2 and Lakeville North beat Rosemount 4-2 to end the Cougars and Irish seasons.
In Sunday’s deciding games, Rochester jumped out to an early two goal lead against Farmington and hung on to win 2-1 and take the title. Farmington took second. In the game for the #3 seed, Woodbury edged Lakeville North 3-0 in a very tough game for the the Panthers. Woodbury’s last two goals came in the final minute on empty net.
Rochester came out strong against Woodbury in their Saturday 7-3 semifinal win and manhandled the Royals defense. The Royal goalie was shell shocked as they jumped to a 4-0 lead early in the game. The Royal coaches switched goalie and the game stabilized. That evening, keeping the same goalie that ended the Rochester game, the Royals beat Lakeville South. The goalie played well, but left the coaches in a dilemma.
With a regional seed and their season on the line, it was the “shell shocked” goalie’s turn in the net. Most coaches would not start him, but they played him and he had an outstanding game. Lakeville North’s team had been playing well and they dominated the Royals, keeping most of the play in their offensive zone. But time and again, they were stopped by the goalie. It was a great decision by the coach, a great game for the Royals, and a tough game for a very good Panther team.
One thing that was also good to see, at the game’s end, was the Woodbury captain, elected by her teammates, accept the third place trophy and lead her team around the rink, trophy held high, in a victory lap.
At the East Regional in Prior Lake, in the early Friday morning (8:00 AM), Rochester opens the Red Division play against Burnsville and Mpls Park plays Woodbury in the second game. Rochester took the D8 #1 seed over the weekend, beating Woodbury 7-3 and Farmington 2-1 in the championship game. Burnsville had a three game series with Edina for the D6 #1 seed that the Blaze lost (lost 5-4, won 5-4 and lost 5-3). They took the #2 seed.
Rochester and Burnsville are evenly matched in size and personal. The game may come to down to the coaching and a single play. Rochester, after a slow start, has come on strong.
In the other Red game, Woodbury and Mpls Park have both been struggling in the last month. The two teams tied 2-2 in their first game of the season. But that game was played in October. Woodbury took the D8 #3 seed by beating Lakeville South 5-2 and Lakeville North 3-0 on the weekend. Last week, the Storm lost a tough championship game to Highland 3-2 in OT and beat the Saint Paul Saints 5-0 to take the D1 #2 seed.
Friday evening, Burnsville plays Woodbury and Rochester plays Mpls Park. The Blaze has beaten the Royals twice this season, 4-2 and 6-1. Rochester and Park have not met. Saturday games in the Red match Burnsville against Mpls Park and Woodbury against Rochester. Burnsville beat Park 5-1 in mid-January. Woodbury and Rochester will be a rematch from a week ago.
The Firday Blue opening games have Edina playing Farmington and Highland playing Eden Prairie. Edina and Farmington have not played before. The Tigers defense will be key. If they can keep the game close in the first and second periods, then the game becomes a wild affair. Highland has been ailing and Eden Prairie has been up and down. If the Caps are full strength, they will be a handful for the Eagles. The Eagles averaged two goals a game in their last seven games (posting a 3-4 record).
Saturday morning matches Edina and Highland in the first game; Eden Prairie and Farmington in the second game. Edina has beaten Highland badly 15-2 in late December. The Caps are a better team. In the Saturday final games, Edina and Eden Prairie play each other and Farmington plays Highland. The Caps beat the Tigers 3-2 in early December.
Edina should have some tense moments, but should win all three games to take the #1 Blue. The winner of the Highland/Eden Prairie game will hold an advantage going into Saturday’s play. But all three teams could end up in a tie at the end of pool play. Highland gets the nod for the #2 Blue.
Burnsville takes the #1 Red and Rochester the #2 Red. Woodbury can challenge. Mpls Park is capable, but needs to up their game. That sets up Sunday’s game with Edina playing Rochester and Burnsville playing Highland. Last year, the Blaze lost on championship Sunday to Edina, but not this year. Edina should take the #1 East seed and Burnsville the #2 seed.
West Region - D10 teams battled it out last week with Andover beating Elk River 3-1 in the championship game on Sunday. The Huskies looks fully loaded and ready to go. They beat Centennial earlier in the tourney 5-1 and dominated Elk River in the D10 championship game. Andover’s goalie took control of the game on the defensive side. She played an outstanding game.
The Elks did not go easy in losing to the Huskies on Sunday. They along with East Grand Forks will be challenged by the Huskies. Centennial recovered from their loss to Andover to beat D10 Green champ Rogers 3-2 in OT, Spring Lake Park 5-3 and Blaine 7-4 before losing to the Elks 3-2 (in 3 OTs) in the game for the #2 seed.
Moorhead plays Bemidji in the Red Division opening game; Elk River plays Centennial in the second game. Bemidji has split their two games this season beating the Spuds 4-1 and losing last weekend 3-1. Elk River has beaten Centennial twice in three games. In the Friday evening games, Elk River plays Moorhead and Bemidji plays Centennial.
Saturday’s game has Elk River playing Bemidji and Centennial playing Moorhead. The Elks have the edge and should take the #1 Red; Bemidji, Moorhead and Centennial will battle for the #2 seed. Centennial has the edge for the #2 spot.
In Friday’s Blue games, EGF plays Alex and Andover plays Brainerd. EGF beat Moorhead 4-3 last week in a tune-up for the West Regional. In Saturday’s AM games Andover and EGF clash, Brainerd and Alex resume their D15 rivalry. In the PM games, Alex plays Andover and EGF plays Brainerd. Both EGF and Andover will be heavy favorites in their games with Brainerd and Alexandria. Andover should take the Blue #1 and EGF the Blue #2 into Sunday’s game.
That would pit the Elks against the Green Wave on Sunday in one great game. EGF already owns a 6-4 win over the Elks at the Roseau Tourney a month ago and should take the West #2 seed. Andover would draw Centennial in a re-match of the D10 quarterfinal game a week ago won by the Huskies 5-1. Andover takes the West #1.
For those looking two weeks ahead, assuming these teams win, the state tourney draw would be: Duluth East plays Burnsville in the opening game at Faribault. Wayzata would play EGF in the other bracket game. In the lower bracket, Edina would play White Bear Lake and Andover would play Orono.