Well, it starts. Five months ago, 107 PeeWee A teams opened their hockey seasons. Each team has played around 40 games pointing towards this week, the start of the playoffs. Some teams did not make it.
In D10, Andover, Irondale, St. Francis and Coon Rapids failed to qualify for the D10 playoffs. In D9, Red Wing, Austin, Albert Lea and Faribault lost their play-in games. I have seen all these teams play games at some point during the year. I want to congratulate you for the efforts you and your team have made this year.
And I wanted you to know that people besides me and your parents are watching you play.
To those teams left in the hunt, good luck.
North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - The North Regional is shaping up as follows:
Grand Rapids would open the tourney against Brainerd and Bemidji would play Mesabi East in the upper bracket of opening round of double elimination play. The Moorhead Black would play Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks would play Hibbing in the lower bracket.
Changes this week are Brainerd replaces Detroit Lakes. The Lakers struggled as the season ended, the Warriors started to play well as a team. Greenway is replaced by Mesabi East. The three teams fighting for the seed are fairly well matched as the season ends. Mesabi East is a first year peewee A team and the host of the D12 playoffs. Roseau is replaced by EGF. The Green Wave has shown improvement, but Crookston is a threat.
District 12 - The D12 playoffs are this weekend at the Hoyt Lakes Arena. Regular season champion Grand Rapids took the #1 seed and a first round bye into the double elimination tourney. The Thunderhawks will play the winner of the Virginia/Greenway game to form the upper bracket of the tournament. The lower bracket matches Hibbing and Eveleth in one game. International Falls and host Mesabi East meet in the other game.
After struggling early in the year, Virginia has improved. The Blue Devils ended their season splitting two games with International Falls (winning 7-2 and losing 6-3) and beating Greenway 9-6 and tying Greenway 3-3. Greenway played in the Cloquet tourney two weekends ago. In pool play, they lost to Hermantown 8-2, lost to the Thunder Bay Kings 6-0, and lost to Sibley. On Sunday they lost to Coon Rapids.
Hibbing took second place in D12 and draw the #7 seed Eveleth-Gilbert team. The Bluejackets ended their season beating Orono 4-3, Rochester Red 3-1, and Warroad 9-1. They have beaten the Golden Bears twice this year 9-0 and 4-0. Eveleth-Gilbert is a team that is a favorite to most fans. They struggled all season, but just can’t get there.
The final game of the opening round matches International Falls and Mesabi East. The Broncos and Giants have split two regular season games. The Falls lost to Mesabi East 6-3 and beat them 12-8. Mesabi East played in the Proctor tourney last week. They lost to Proctor 4-3, the Wisconsin Fire 8-0, and played Hutchinson and the Duluth Lakers.
Grand Rapids has been dominant in D12 beating all the teams easily. What is strange is that in the past month, the other D12 teams have been playing some top competition and doing well. Still the Thunderhawks take the #1 seed. The #2 seed has to go to Hibbing. Hibbing and the Falls should tangle in the semifinals, but the Bluejackets should win. That leaves the #3 seed to be fought over by the Falls, Virginia, and Mesabi East. Because this is the first year at Peewee A for the Giants and they are hosting the playoff, they take the #3 seed.
District 15 - Moorhead Black took the D15 title. Four games were forfeited to the Black, two games by Moorhead Orange, one game by Little Falls, and one game by Northern Lakes. The Black ended their season beating Northern Lakes 9-1. They also lost to Wayzata twice 5-3 and 6-2 as part of Hockey Day in Minnesota.
The D15 playoffs are set. The opening round of the double elimination tourney will start this Friday in Fergus Falls. Moorhead as the #1 seed will play #8 Northern Lakes in the upper bracket. The other bracket game will match #4 seeded Brainerd and #5 seeded Detroit Lakes. In the lower bracket #2 seeded Alexandria plays #7 seed Little Falls and #3 seed Fergus Falls plays #6 seed Moorhead Orange.
Moorhead Black, as league champion, will take one of the two seeds D15 has this year. They will be playing for either the first or the second seed in the playoffs. The Black have dominated the three teams in their bracket this year, Northern Lakes, Brainerd and Detroit Lakes.
Brainerd and Detroit Lakes have struggled as regular season ended. The Warriors beat Detroit Lake early in the year 5-2, but lost to them 4-1 in mid-January. Still, the Warriors ended their season beating Alexandria 5-3. Detroit Lakes had a tough tourney in Willmar two weekends ago. The Lakers lost to Willmar 5-1 and to Owatonna 3-2. Last week, Detroit Lakes beat Fargo North 4-0 to end their regular season on a positive note.
Alexandria and Little Falls meet in the first game of the lower bracket. The Cardinals have beaten the Flyers twice this year, 5-1 and 7-0 (last Sunday). Alex had their version of the North Dakota peewee A state tourney two weekends ago. Three of the top rated North Dakota teams (Bismarck Blades, Bismarck Admirals, and the Grand Forks Greyhounds) were entered. Alexandria beat Litchfield 4-2, lost to the Blades 8-0 and lost the third place game to the Admirals 3-0.
Fergus Falls and the Moorhead Orange play each other in the final game. In December, the Otters beat the Orange 7-2 and 8-1. Fergus Falls ended their season playing two Fargo teams. They beat Fargo North 8-4 an 8-2 and lost to the Fargo Flyers Gold 12-4. The Orange are playing well since the turn of the year (beating Alex 3-2, beating Grand Forks Golden Eagles 5-4, and losing a close one to Brainerd 3-2). This will be a close game.
The Moorhead Black should dominate their side of the draw. With only two regional seeds available, the Black may be challenged only in the championship game. Brainerd and Detroit Lakes have been up and down teams. The Black takes the #1 seed. The other seed is wide open. Alex, Detroit Lakes, Brainerd, and the Moorhead Orange all have a shot.
Sometimes things just come together for a peewee team. Everything snaps into place. Two years ago, in the D12 playoffs, International Falls won their first games of the year and went on to play well in the regionals. Maybe this is Brainerd’s year to have that happen. The Warriors take the #2 seed.
District 16 - Bemidji won the D16 championship and a first round bye in the playoffs. The Lumberjacks will play the winner of the game between #4 East Grand Forks and #5 Roseau. These three teams comprise the upper bracket of the playoff.
In the lower bracket, there is a real surprise, #3 Crookston. The Pirates came on at the end of the season to take the #3 seed and will play #6 Warroad. The other lower bracket game pits #2 Thief River Falls and #7 Red Lake Falls. Thief River Falls is hosting the tourney.
The Lumberjacks have played steady hockey this year and are a balanced team. They ended their D16 season beating Roseau 7-2, Red Lake Falls 6-1, and Warroad 8-1 last weekend. Roseau and East Grand Forks have been rivals over the past few years. Both teams have fought each other for the D16 titles and state tourney seeds in the regionals. So it is odd to see the two teams playing each other so early in the playoffs.
East Grand Forks has two regular season wins over Roseau 8-3 and 6-3 (a week ago). The Green Wave have ended their season losing and winning games. In they won two of their last four games. Besides beating Roseau, they beat the Fargo Angels 4-0, lost to the Grand Forks Seaswolves 5-2 and lost to Crookston 5-4 in overtime. Roseau beat Warroad twice to end their season.
Crookston and Warroad meet in the first game of the lower bracket. Crookston has beaten Warroad twice this year 8-0 and 7-0. The Pirates have won 5 of their last 6 games. Warroad ended their season losing 5 of their last 6 games.
Thief River Falls and Red Lake Falls play in the second game in the lower bracket. The Prowlers enter the playoffs on what would seem to be a sour note losing six of their last eight games. But they played some tough teams losing to Wayzata 5-4 in overtime, STMA 3-2, Bemidji 4-3 in overtime, and Moorhead Black 3-2 in overtime. Red Lake Falls has been a slowly improving team. They have a tough draw in the playoffs.
The East Grand Forks/Roseau is a tough one to figure. The Green Wave wins over the Rams should make it easy to take them, but Roseau is always tough at tournament time. EGF should win and that would set up a Bemidji/EGF semifinal. Bemidji has beaten the Green Wave twice during the year, the nod goes to Bemidji.
In the lower bracket, Crookston and Thief River Falls should advance setting up another cross town rivalry (40 miles downriver). Crookston has lost twice to TRF this year. Another tough match, but Prowlers should win. Bemidji and Thief River Falls would then play for the #1 seed. Loser gets the#2 seed. The third seed is a tossup between Crookston, Roseau and EGF. D16 always has a surprise winner in this tourney. It is hard to believe that EGF would be knocked out in the D16 playoffs. EGF takes the #3 seed.
South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - The South Regional is shaping up as follows: In the South Regional at Rochester, Farmington would play Lakeville South and Rochester Red would play Woodbury in the upper bracket. Luverne would play Mankato and Owatonna would play Rosemount in the lower bracket.
The Rochester Red were added to the D9 playoffs and took the #1 seed from Mankato. Mankato gets the #2 D9 seed.
District 4 - D4 will be the first district to send a team to the regional. Their single seed will be filled by 3:00 this Sunday. Luverne is the odds on favorite. The Cardinals played a full D9 schedule and almost edged Mankato for the title in the last week of the season. Redwood Falls and Marshall played a D5 schedule, but unlike Luverne, their games were not counted in the D5 standings.
Luverne will open the three team round robin tourney playing Marshall. Marshall and Redwood Falls meet on Saturday in a second game. Luverne will play Redwood Falls on Sunday to complete the tourney. Luverne has beaten Redwood Falls twice this year.
District 8 - St. Cloud and STMA were headed to fight to the finish in D5. That was changed when STMA was beaten a few days before the big. In D8, Farmington and Rosemount were on a parallel path and a few days before the tourney, Woodbury beat Rosemount 3-2. The two teams squared off last Saturday at Rosemount. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. With the tie, Farmington took the D8 championship. Sunday, the Tigers beat Woodbury 2-1 to end their D8 season and Rosemount beat Sibley 7-0 to end their D8 season.
D8 playoffs open this Sunday at Hastings with the for play-in games. Hastings will play IGH/SSP in the first game; Lakeville North plays Johnson/Como is the second game; Sibley plays Eagan in the third game; and Eastview plays Apple Valley in the last play-in game of the day.
The Hastings/IGH game is a toss-up. The teams split their two regular season games played back to back in mid-January. IGH/SSP won the first game at Hastings 5-1 and lost the home game 3-1. The Spartans, after having a good home tourney have lost their last five D8 games. Always a late starting team, Hastings has played well in the last month and will be tough opening at home in front of a large crowd.
Lakeville North won a good tourney in Fargo in mid-January and has struggled since, it part due to a short bench. The Panthers have won one game in their last eight. Hopefully they will have all their kids back for the playoffs. They beat Johnson/Como twice earlier in the season 5-1 and 7-2.
Sibley and Eagan play the third play-in game this Sunday. Sibley ended their regular D8 season beating IGH/SSP 5-4. The Sibley forwards showed they could play hockey, but their defense had lapses that keep the Spartans in the game. Eagan has shown improvement in the last month of the season. In the New Hope tourney two weekends ago, the Wildcats beat Hastings 3-0 and lost to Champlin Park 3-2 in overtime. This is a tough game to call.
The final play-in game matches Eastview and Apple Valley. These two teams transferred over from D6 last year and are arch rivals. They both call the same sheet of ice, home. Eastview has had a solid year taking care of business when it mattered and Apple Valley has had a tough year having lost some key players to the Wisconsin Fire. Rivalry games are always close.
Farmington takes on the winner of the Hastings/IGH game. If Tigers play Hastings at Hastings in a key D8 game, it could be a great game. The two teams played at Farmington two weeks ago and despite the Tigers dominating play, they could not shake the Raiders. They won 4-0. It would be another old small town arch rivalry game where a little of community pride is at state.
Lakeville South plays the winner of Lakeville North/Johnson. Lakeville South hit a tough part of their schedule three weeks ago and ended up playing Farmington and Rosemount and getting beat 7-1, 7-1, and 9-1. So at the White Bear Tourney the Cougars beat Eden Prairie 6-4 and have added wins over rival Lakeville North 7-1 and Johnson/Como 7-0. The Cougars are a young team and have done well. A good D8 tourney and a trip to the South Regional will make them the favorites in D8 next year. Anything the Cougars achieve beyond that this year is gravy. Another arch rivalry game in the D8 semis is possible, but don’t discount Johnson/Como.
Rosemount plays the winner of the Sibley/Eagan game. The Irish have played some of the best hockey at the peewee A level this year. But they have been skating with 8 forwards in the past few weeks and that has thrown some of their team play off. They are constantly adjusting lines during a game. Rosemount will be a very tough team to beat.
Woodbury looked great when they beat Centennial 4-0 in the White Bear Lake tourney. And then the Predators lost to Minnetonka 6-3. After the White Bear tourney, they have played well and may have found their stride. Woodbury draws the Eastview/Apple Valley winner.
Farmington had two ties in the last week of regular season. They tied Prior Lake 3-3 in addition to tying Rosemount. They should take the #1 seed. Hastings could surprise them. Lakeville South will challenge especially if they can keep pace for the full game. Rosemount and Woodbury will tangle again in the playoffs. That will be quite a game. Woodbury, by beating Rosemount last week, gets the #2 seed and Rosemount the #3 seed. Lakeville South should get the fourth spot and an opportunity to go to the regions via play-in game.
District 9 - Last Wednesday, the D9 playoff seeding were announced. Unlike other districts, D9 chose to seed teams based on strength, not on where they finished in regular season. This change was caused by the last minute inclusion of the Rochester Red team, a team that played an independent schedule and played no D9 teams.
The Rochester Red team was placed in the East Division for purposes of seeding and given the East #1 seed. They did not earn it. Northfield, the East Champions were given the #2 East seed. Dodge County took the #3 East seed, Rochester Black the #4 East seed. The playoffs now included all teams and the Rochester Gold team was given the #5 seed and Austin the #6 seed. With Rochester added to the East Division (they are listed in the East League with an 0-0-0 record), a team had to be moved to the West Division. The last place East team, Red Wing became a West team and was seeded fourth in the West.
The rest of the West seeds went in order the D9 teams finished in regular season. Mankato took the #1 seed, Owatonna the #2 seed, New Ulm #3 seed, Albert Lea #5 seed and Faribault #6 seed. Four play-in games were added to the tourney schedule. Red Wing, now with a higher west seed, hosted the Rochester Gold at Red Wing even though the Gold finished two places higher than the Wingers in regular season.
The game was played at Bergwell Tuesday. Both teams were fired up. The Gold jumped to a 2-0 lead. The Wingers came back to tie the game 2-2. But the Wingers could not beat the Gold goalie. The Gold bottled up in their zone most of the third period, scored two goals late in the game on long passes to win 5-2.
In the other play-in games, Dodge County beat Faribault 5-1, Rochester Black beat Albert Lea 2-1, and New Ulm beat Austin 5-3.
The D9 double elimination playoffs are now set. Rochester Red will play the Rochester Gold. It will be the Red’s first official D9 game. Owatonna and Dodge County meet in the other game in the upper bracket. The Huskies added two more wins last week, beating Waconia 2-0 and Apple Valley 6-4. They have now won 10 games in a row and 18 games out of their last 20 games. They beat Dodge County 10-2 in an early season game in their only meeting.
Mankato plays Rochester Black in their opening game of the playoffs. Mankato played in the Cloquet tourney two weekends ago. The Mavericks beat Coon Rapids 4-0, lost to Spring Lake Park 6-0 and beat Apple Valley 4-2. They lost to Sibley 3-1 in the seventh place game. The Mavericks and the Black have played twice this season. Mankato has won both games (5-2 and 13-2). The Black have struggled all year but have been a thorn in Northfield’s side beating them twice in midseason. The Black beat Albert Lea in an overtime play-in game 2-1 earlier this week.
This final game of the D9 double elimination tourney first round matches Northfield and New Ulm. The two teams have not met this season. Northfield ended their season by stringing for wins together beating Apple Valley and St. Louis Park among others. New Ulm played in Alexandria’s tourney two weeks ago. They lost to Kennedy 9-3 in the consolation championship. The Eagles ended their season beating Marshall 9-2. They beat Austin in their play-in game 5-3.
Rochester Red has the easiest path as they take their 0-0-0 unbeaten D9 record into the playoffs. They need to win their first two games. Their first game against the Rochester Gold and their second is game is most likely will be Owatonna. Mankato, Northfield or New Ulm could win the lower bracket. The Rochester Black is the dark horse there. The Mavericks are the favorites. That would set up an Owatonna/Northfield battle for the third seed. Owatonna would be the favorite; the Huskies beat Northfield twice this season, 11-1 and 4-1. Rochester Red gets the #1 seed, Mankato gets the #2 seed, and Owatonna the #3 seed. Northfield takes fourth and plays the D8 fourth place team for a regional seed.
East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - The East Regional is shaping up as follows: In the East Regional, Stillwater would play Duluth East and Elk River would play White Bear Lake in the upper bracket. Hermantown would play Rogers and Centennial would play Roseville in the lower bracket.
Duluth East replaces Cloquet as the #2 seed. Despite winning their own tourney two weeks ago, the Lumberjacks are struggling. Rogers replaces Blaine as the #3 D10 seed. Rogers and Blaine tied 1-1 in the last week of D10 play and Rogers is hosting the tourney.
District 2 - Roseville lost to Tartan 4-3 on Sunday. The loss was not enough to knock the Raiders out of first place. Roseville will open the D2 playoffs on Stillwater’s Blizzard this Friday against the eighth seeded Mahtomedi. Roseville beat the Zephyrs twice in regular season play 8-4 and 4-1. The Raiders won the New Hope tourney two weeks ago beating Hopkins 5-0, Eastview 4-0 and Champlin Park 5-1 in the championship game.
Stillwater took second place. They also won on Sunday beating Hudson 2-1 in their last D2 game. The Ponies play Highland in their D2 playoff opener. The Bears have been busy in the past two weeks, first playing in their own tourney and then playing three D2 games last week. The Bears closed their D2 season losing to Stillwater 4-0, beating Highland 2-0, and beating Forest Lake 3-1. White Bear Lake took third place.
In their own tourney two weeks ago, the Bears lost to Blaine 3-2, beat Winnipeg 4-1 and lost to Edina 10-0. The Bears play Centennial this week before opening their D2 playoffs against #6 seeded Forest Lake. Tartan finally posted their wins. The Titans went from a 1-6 record to a 7-7 record and ended in fourth place. They open D2 playoffs against Moundsview. The Mustangs took a tough 2-1 loss to Stillwater in late January and have been up and down since. They took fourth place at the Minneapolis Storm tourney beating Northern Lakes 6-0 and losing to Rogers 5-1 and to Shakopee 3-1. They beat Princeton and Forest Lake to end their season.
Roseville is the favorite to win their bracket, but Tartan holds that late season win over the Raiders. Moundsview is a rugged team that seems on the verge of putting it all together. Mahtomedi demonstrated some excellent play in their forwards early in the season but have struggled since. Still Roseville should come out of the playoffs with the #1 seed. In the lower bracket, it looks like a battle between Stillwater and White Bear Lake. Stillwater owns two D2 wins. They beat the Bears early in the season 3-1 and last week 4-0.
This week, Stillwater takes the #1 seed. Roseville gets the #2 seed. Moundsview and White Bear Lake would then likely battle for the #3 seed. That will be a good game. Last year in the state tourney, White Bear Lake had Edina on the ropes until they drew to many penalties in last half of the game. They had an excellent game approach. Moundsview has talent and it is coming together, but the edge goes to the Bears. They get the #3 seed.
District 10 - Elk River and Centennial went down to the wire in the race for first in D10. Both teams needed every point. The Elks beat Anoka 5-3 and kept their “unfairplay” point. Centennial beat Andover 4-0 and lost their “unfairplay” point. Elk River is the D10 champs. They edged out Centennial by a single point in the standings.
After Andover’s great season last year ending with a state tourney appearance, the Huskies struggled all this year. They were out of the D10 playoffs before playing Centennial. Irondale was a D1 team last year and played a D2 schedule. When D1 dropped competitive hockey, Irondale joined D10.
Irondale surprised a few people this year. The Knights had a great start to the season, almost beating Cloquet in the championship game of the Super Rink Thanksgiving tourney. They lost 2-1 in a close game. But the Knights struggled in the past few months and were edged out of the D10 playoffs the last few weeks of regular season. Two other teams, Coon Rapids and St. Francis also failed to qualify for the D10 playoffs.
The D10 Playoffs are set. The goal of all the teams is to win their first two games. The winners of the first two games will take either the #1 or #2 seed. Teams that lose one of the first two games will have a chance to play for the #3 seed.
The upper bracket matches Elk River and Princeton in the first game. Rogers and Champlin Park play in the second. Since losing 4-2 to Centennial in early January, the Elks have won 10 D10 games in a row. They took third at White Bear Lake two weekends ago beating Lakeville South 6-0 and Duluth East 5-1 before losing to Eden Prairie 2-1 in pool play. As the wild card, the Elks pushed Edina before losing 3-2 in the championship semifinals. They beat OMG 3-2 for third. The Elks have beaten Princeton 6-0 and 5-0 in league play. Elk River plays STMA and St. Cloud as a tune-up to the D10 playoffs this week.
Princeton has had a good season. The Tigers lost 5-3 to the Kansas City Stars (98 AA peewee team currently ranked #22 in the nation out of 475 teams) in the championship game at Owatonna and they took third place in Hibbing’ tourney beating the host 3-2 in overtime. The Tiger’s had a strong D10 season winning and tying half their games. They will be tough.
The Rogers/Champlin Park game will be a good one. Champlin Park beat Rogers 4-1 and tied them 1-1 in league play. But that was in early December. Rogers finished strong in D10 winning five of their last six games. Their only loss was to Elk River 4-1. Champlin Park struggled as the D10 season ended losing five of their last six games. Their only win was over Coon Rapids 6-2. Champlin Park maybe down because they have had a steady diet of Cougar (Centennial style) as their season ended. They lost to the Cougars four times in the past few weeks.
In the lower bracket, Centennial plays Spring Lake Park and Blaine plays Anoka. Centennial went on tear in the past month in D10. They strung 10 D10 wins together beating Spring Lake Park twice 3-1 and 6-1. The Cougars played in the White Bear Tourney two weekends ago, tying Minnetonka 2-2, losing to Woodbury 4-0 and beating OMG 3-2. Centennial plays White Bear Lake this week. Spring Lake Park also had a great season winning or tying over half their games. The Panthers played well in D10 over the past few weeks. They needed to do well to make the playoffs and they did. Spring Lake Park played in Cloquet’s tourney two weekends ago. They tied Waconia 4-4, beat Mankato 6-0, beat Coon Rapids 7-2 and lost to St. Cloud 6-2 in the third place game.
The final game of the quarter finals has Blaine playing Anoka. The Bengals got off to a strong start this year, taking third place at Burnsville turkey day tourney and surprising people in the Duluth tourney two weeks later by beating Wayzata 5-4 to get to Championship Sunday. In the past month, Blaine has lost twice in 9 D10 games. They have beaten Anoka twice in league play 5-2 and 3-2. Anoka surprised Rosemount, beating the Irish 3-2 in the championship game of their tourney a month ago. The Tornadoes then lost three tough games (to Spring Lake Park 3-2, to Centennial 3-1, and to Rogers 3-2. Since then they have been on a rampage winning six of their last seven games.
Elk River are the favorites to take their first round games, but can be beaten. The Rogers/Champlin Park game is a tough one to pick. So is the Blaine/Anoka game. The Elks should take the #1 seed to the East Regional and Centennial should take the #2 seed. The Blaine/Anoka winner may change that. So the nod here goes to Anoka beating Blaine and Centennial to take the #2 seed. That means Rogers would have to come back to beat Blaine and Centennial to get the #3 seed. But it is Rogers’s home ice. They take the #3 seed.
District 11 - Cloquet won their tourney two weeks ago. In pool play, the Lumberjacks beat Sibley 6-1 Coon Rapids 8-1, and Waconia. In the championship game, they beat the Thunder Bay Kings 1-0. Cloquet lost to 4-3 just before the tourney. That loss cost the Lumberjacks the D11 title. Cloquet played Rogers last week losing 6-1.
Cloquet and Duluth East will play each other in the opening round of the D11 playoffs
Hermantown took the D11 title and get a first round bye in the D11 playoffs. They also played in Cloquet’s tourney and took fifth place. The Hawks beat Greenway 8-2, lost to Thunder Bay 5-2 and tied St. Cloud 3-3 in pool play. They beat Waconia 8-4 in the fifth place game. Hermantown plays the winner of the Duluth Lakers/Proctor game.
Duluth East takes third place in D11. They played in the White Bear Tourney two weeks ago. The Hounds lost to Eden Prairie 9-1, lost to Elk River 5-1, and beat Lakeville South 6-1. Last week, the Duluth East beat White Bear Lake 4-2 and hosted the Rochester Red on the weekend.
The Duluth Lakers take fourth place in D11. The Lakers played Hutchinson, Proctor, Mesabi East, and lost to the Wisconsin Fire 4-0 in Proctor’s tourney on the weekend. Proctor takes fifth place. Proctor beat Hutchinson 3-2, lost to the Duluth Lakers 10-0, beat Mesabi East 4-3, and lost to the Wisconsin Fire 6-2 in their tourney. The Duluth Lakers and Proctor open the D11 playoffs on the 21st.
The D11 playoffs start first round play on the 21st. This is a tough district to figure out. The #1 seed goes to Hermantown, the Hawks have struggled at times, but not against D11 foes. The old zinc penny came out and the flip went to Duluth East for the #2 seed.
West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The West Regional is shaping up as follows: In the West Regional, St. Cloud would play Mpls Storm and Eden Prairie would play MAML in the upper bracket. Wayzata would play Prior Lake and Edina would play STMA in the lower bracket.
Mpls Storm replaces Crow River. The Storm had a strong finish to their season. Burnsville replaces Edina. Burnsville beat Edina and Eden Prairie lost. That gave the Blaze the D6 #1 seed this week. Edina and Prior Lake swapped their seeds.
District 3-Two weeks ago, Wayzata beat OMG 6-4 to end any suspense on who would be the league champions. The Trojans take the #1 seed. But OMG needed a Valentine’s Day win over Crow River to keep the #2 seed. They beat Crow River 2-1. That win edged out the Mpls Storm who finished third. Armstrong took fourth and Crow River took fifth. Orono and Mound Westonka took sixth and seventh. St. Louis Park and Hopkins play Thursday at the PIC for the #8 seed.
Wayzata and the winner of the #8 seed will open play at the PIC on Saturday. In the other side of the bracket, Armstrong and Crow River will meet.
Both Armstrong and Crow River finished the season strong. The Spartans lost only a 2-1 game to Wayzata in their last five D3 games. They took third place in their home tourney two weekends ago, beating Hastings 4-1, losing to Champlin Park 6-5, and beating Eastview 4-0. They also beat Hermantown 4-2 and Mahtomedi 6-4 last week. Armstrong beat Crow River twice. They beat the Tigers 2-1 very early in the season and 3-2 last week. Crow River lost to Prior Lake 6-2 three weeks ago in the Inver Grove Heights Tourney championship game. Since then, they have split games with the Mpls Storm, and beat St. Louis Park besides losing to Armstrong. Two tough teams going at and the winner should challenge Wayzata.
In the lower bracket, #2 OMG plays Mound/Westonka and Mpls Storm play Orono. OMG hold two regular season wins over the Whitehawks. They beat them 6-1 in December and 4-0 last week.
The Mpls Storm has beaten Orono twice this season, 4-0 and 7-1. The Mpls Storm has developed well as a team. They were tough at the start of the year and got tougher after January 1st. The Storm have lost four games in the 20 games they have played in 2011. They have beaten Centennial, tied Wayata, beat OMG in those 20 games. Two of their four losses were to Rogers. Orono made it to the state last year and were a team that many rooted for to take the title. This year’s Spartans have struggled, but they have finished on a high note, winning their last four games.
With the two D3 regional seeds up for grabs, Wayzata is favored to take one. But the Trojans need to win three games to get there. Armstrong or Crow River will challenge the Trojans and then mostly likely OMG or Mpls Park. D3 teams always seem to start slow and start to catch the Trojans as the year ends. But they never quite do it. But Wayzata should take the #1 seed. The #2 seed is a tough pick. There are four teams, OMG, Armstrong, Crow River, or Mpls Park that could take it. Mpls Park is my choice especially if they do not have to play OMG twice in the tourney.
District 5 - St. Cloud and STMA have been running neck and neck all season in D5. Last week, the two teams played an intense game. St. Cloud won 3-2 to claim the D5 title. Unfortunately, River Lakes spoiled the party a week earlier by beating STMA 2-1 and taking the Knights out of contention. St. Cloud draws the winner of the Hutchinson/Litchfield game in the D5 playoffs. STMA beat Champlin Park 1-0 and Buffalo 6-0 last week. STMA plays Elk River this week before the playoffs. The Knights draw the winner of the Willmar/Sauk Rapids game.
The Knights swept through the D5 playoffs last year, but will have a more difficult path this year. Last year, Crow River, now a threat to take a D3 ticket to this regional, was a favorite to take a seed. But Crow River lost to Buffalo in the first round and could not recover. Neither the Knights nor St. Cloud should overlook that first game.
Sartell meets Buffalo in the other half of the upper bracket. The two teams split their regular season games, Sartell winning 2-1 early on and Buffalo winning 6-2 in January. Both teams are struggling, but the Bison have shown improvement. They have lost some close games to good teams in the past few weeks. Sartell will be playing in front of a home crowd and that will help.
Two improving teams, MAML and River Lakes, meet in the other half of the lower bracket. MAML began to show improvement in mid-December when they tied STMA 2-2 in a D5 game. River Lakes surprised STMA last week with their win. The two teams have played each other three times this season an MAML has won all three games (6-2, 4-2 and 2-1), but in hockey, the more times you play a team, the more difficult it gets to beat that team. This will be a tough game and one of the more interesting games to watch.
The last four finishers in D5 were Sauk Rapids, Willmar, Hutchinson, and Litchfield-Cokato/Dassel. These teams seam to always get a late start in their hockey season and then accelerate their improvement as the season ends. Sauk Rapids and Willmar this year have improved enough to where they could slip into the regional. Sauk Rapids came over from D10 last year with St. Cloud are not used to being in a district playoff. In D10, only the top 8 D10 teams make the D10 playoff.
The Sauk Rapids Storm played in the first tourney of the year at Spring Lake Park in early November. Their home ice is at the county fairgrounds and doesn’t hold ice the year round. That sets them back in forming a team. So it was surprising to see them entered in an early tourney. For a team that was just getting rolling in that tourney, the Storm impressed with the discipline they showed. Since then, they have played most of the D5 teams tough but can’t seem to make that step to play with the St. Clouds.
Willmar has a nice facility, one of the best in the state. They are also an improving team. The Cardinals struggled early on and lost big to STMA and Sartell. But they closed the season winning five of their last six games and took second place in their own tourney a week ago beating Detroit Lakes 5-1 (after losing to the Lakers 8-3 early on) and the Fargo Flyer Black 5-2.
MAML and Sauk Rapids maybe improving teams, but Litchfield after taking some hard knocks early on surprised both teams by beating them (MAML 4-1 and Sauk Rapids 9-7) in the last month of the season. Litchfield added wins over Marshall 7-1 and Redwood Falls 11-1 to end their regular season on a high note.
Hutchinson beat River Lakes 4-1 two weekends ago, the day after River Lakes beat STMA 2-1. Last weekend, the Tigers played in the Proctor tourney. They lost to the Wisconsin Fire 8-1, lost to Proctor 3-2, played Mesabi East and the Duluth Lakers.
D5 sends three teams to the regionals and two teams, STMA and St. Cloud, are strong favorites to take two of the three seeds. St. Cloud gets the #1 seed this week and STMA get the #2 seed. The fight for the third seed will be donnybrook. MAML and River Lakes could be battling for the final seed on Saturday. MAML takes the #3 seed.
One final note, for those who will be at the D5 tourney in Litchfield, take some time between games and walk the halls of the Litchfield high school across the street from the arena. It is usually open with some sporting activity. The high school has been given each graduating class a large section of hallway. The class paints a mural on that panel. They have been doing this for around 25 years. It is worthwhile seeing.
District 6 - Going into the last weekend of the season, Burnsville, Eden Prairie, and Edina all had a shot at the D6 title and all had a shot at the coveted #2 seed for the D2 playoffs and they all played each other. Burnsville and Edina opened the action on Friday at Burnsville’s Rink 2, a smaller rink that soon became crowded with fans standing two and three deep along the boards. It was a great game. It had that old time hockey feel to it. The Blaze took an early lead and Edina stormed back to tie the game. In the third period, a key moment came when the Burnsville coach changed lines at a faceoff in their zone. Edina didn’t creating a mismatch. The stronger fresh Blaze line simple took the faceoff, skated the puck down the ice and scored after a little melee in front of the Edina goal. Burnsville won 5-4 and that gave the Blaze the championship. Edina now had to play Eden Prairie for the #2 spot on Sunday.
The Eden Prairie Eagles have been an up and down team and have had outstanding goal tending in crucial games. Edina has a team this year that has shown great improvement in the last two months. Their bigger forwards look to have matured to the point where they can really apply their hockey skills. It looked to be a game where the Hornets would attack and hold the Eagles in their zone. The Eagles would use their good defense to break the puck out occasionally.
The Eagles came out firing and turned the game into an up and down affair. That gave the Hornets room to maneuver down low around the goal and they did. Edina won 6-3.
The top 5 teams in D6 are seeded into the double elimination part of the playoffs. The remaining 5 teams play a single game elimination tourney for the sixth seed. In addition the top two seeds get a first round bye in the double elimination tourney.
Shakopee and Kennedy will open the single elimination part of the D6 playoffs on Thursday in Chaska. The winner will play #6 seeded Chaska on Friday. In the other Friday game, #8 Jefferson plays #7 Waconia. The winners of these two games meet on Saturday with the winner of that game getting the #6 seed in the double elimination round.
On Sunday, the first two games in the double elimination round are played. Prior Lake plays Eden Prairie and Minnetonka plays the #6 seed (who will be playing their third game in three days or their fourth game in four days). Sunday’s winners will play the #1 and #2 seeded teams on Monday. Burnsville plays the winner of the Minnetonka/#6 seed game and Edina plays the winner of the Prior Lake/Eden Prairie game.
D6 has been using this playoff format for years and it is a grueling tourney especially if you have to start back in the single elimination part of the tourney. It incentivizes league play and winning league games since the lower in the final standings a team finishes, the harder it is to make it to the regionals. It is one of the reasons D6 teams always do well in the regional and state tourneys.
If Chaska plays where Chaska should be playing, they should take the #6 seed and will be a threat to take one of the three regional seeds. But Burnsville and Edina are playing at the top of their game and should take two of the seeds. Give the Blaze the #1 seed and Edina the #2 seed. That leaves Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Prior Lake. So out came the old zinc penny. Prior Lake takes the #3 seed, but that penny wanted to be flipped again.
There is one final observation to offer the readers. Over the past three years, Edina has started strong, stayed strong, but never showed great improvement. This year’s team started OK and in the last month has shown tremendous improvement.