Well, it continues. Five months ago, 107 PeeWee A teams opened their hockey seasons. Last week, 99 of those teams started their district playoffs. Four districts named their champions last week and completed play.
The District 4 champion is Luverne. No other teams advance from D4.
The District 12 champion is Grand Rapids. Hibbing took the #2 seed and Virginia (in a surprise) took the #3 seed.
The District 15 champion is Moorhead Black. Fergus Fall showed that their second place in D15 was no fluke and took the #2 seed.
The District 16 champion is Bemidji. Thief River Falls took the #2 seed and East Grand Forks took the #3 seed.
Going into action this Thursday, 51 teams are left in the hunt. By Sunday there will be 33 teams (and one regional play-in game) left. The teams making the regional will have four days to get ready. All regional tourneys will began play Friday at 2:00 in the afternoon.
To those teams left in the hunt, good luck. And to the kids, coaches, parents and fans of the 51 teams, what I said about the Super Bowl a few weeks ago is true. Most people forget who won or lost in a few years. But those that are part of the tight district finals and the excitement, you will remember being there.
Now, how many people remember the final score of the last Super Bowl?
North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - The North Regional is set. The tournament will be played in Moorhead. All regional tourneys will open at 2:00 on Friday afternoon, March 4th.
Grand Rapids would open the tourney against Fergus Falls. Bemidji would play Virginia in the second game of the upper bracket of opening. The Moorhead Black would play Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks would play Hibbing in the lower bracket.
The regionals are all double elimination and have a new format. A team that wins its first two games will have a two out of three chance to make the state tourney. The upper bracket favors Bemidji.
District 12 - The D12 playoffs this year were played at the Hoyt Lakes Arena, home to the Mesabi East team. With three D12 regional seeds available, the tourney looked to be a runaway for one seed, a partial runaway for the second seed, and donnybrook for the third seed. It was.
Grand Rapids had run away with the season title, they ran away with the D12 playoffs. With a first round bye as season champs, the Thunderhawks beat Virginia 14-3 and beat Hibbing 5-2 to win the #1 D12 seed. Hibbing opened beating Eveleth 11-0 and had a tougher game against International Falls beating the Broncos 3-2 to get to the championship game. The Bluejackets took the #2 D12 seed.
The Falls opened their tourney beating Mesabi East 12-8 before losing to Hibbing. After losing to Hibbing, Greenway beat the Broncos 5-1 to end their season. Mesabi East came back to beat Eveleth 8-1 ending the Golden Bears season. The Giants lost to Virginia in a tough game 5-3 to end their season. Virginia had beaten Greenway 5-1 in Friday’s opening game of the D12 playoffs and the Blue Devils beat Greenway 3-1 to take the #3 D12 seed in Sunday’s third place game.
After struggling early in the year, Virginia has improved. But in a scheduling quirk, they played Greenway four times in the last few weeks of the season and in the playoffs. The Blue Devils beat Greenway in three of those games and tied them in the fourth. No question on who deserved the #3 seed.
Hibbing ended their season beating Orono, Rochester Red, and Warroad. Their 5-2 loss to Grand Rapids shows that the Bluejackets are improving. For the Thunderhawks, Sunday’s night’s drive back may have been on a snowy night, not a rainy night; but as Garth sang, “…and the Thunder rolls”.
District 15 - While the southern part of Minnesota was turning whiter last weekend, Fergus Falls was spared the bulk of the storm. Their Otters took full advantage. D15 had two seeds to the North Regional and had a wrinkle in their playoff format that turned the semifinal games into the final elimination games for their playoffs. But only if the season champion, Moorhead Black, made it to the final game. The Black did. The D15 finals then became a fight for the #1 and #2 seeds. The Moorhead Black had entered the tourney as the favorite and a guaranteed playoff.
The Black beat Northern Lakes 10-0 in the opening game; added two more wins (Brainerd 8-1 and Detroit Lakes 9-2) to make it to the Championship game. The Black beat Fergus Falls 9-0 for the playoff title and the #1 seed.
Brainerd beat Detroit Lakes 3-2, lost to the Black, and then crossed over to play Alexandria in the lower bracket. The Warriors lost to Alex to end their playoff hopes. Detroit Lakes beat Northern Lakes 5-1 to eliminate the Lightning from the tourney, and beat Little Falls 9-2 to eliminate the Flyers from the tourney. But then they lost to Moorhead Black to end the Laker’s regional hopes.
In the lower bracket, Little Falls had opened with a surprising 3-2 win over Alexandria, but the Flyers lost to Fergus Falls 7-2 before being eliminated from the tourney by Detroit Lakes. Fergus Falls edged out the Moorhead Orange 5-4 in their opener, beat Little Falls, and beat Alexandria 5-4 in overtime in the semifinal game to take the #2 D15 regional seed. Alexandria got there by beating the Moorhead Orange 6-3 and eliminating the Orange from the playoffs before eliminating Brainerd.
No guessing this week. The Moorhead Black take the #1 seed and Fergus Falls takes the #2 seed. The Moorhead Black did dominate their side of the draw. Fergus Falls, Alex, Detroit Lakes, Brainerd, and the Moorhead Orange all had a shot. Brainerd started well, but could not beat Alex in when the Warriors needed to. Alex turned a tough start, losing to Little Falls, around and came back only to fall short in the overtime lost to the Otters.
District 16 - Bemidji has had a solid team all year. They always seem to show up to play hockey. In the D16 playoffs last weekend, they did just that. Working off a bye for taking the season title, the Lumberjacks beat East Grand Forks 6-4 and Thief River Falls 4-0 to take the #1 D16 seed. Their season continues. This week they host Detroit Lakes and play International Falls.
Thief River Falls beat Red Lake Falls 10-2 and Crookston 4-1 to get to the D16 playoff final game. The Prowler’s great season continues as they take the #2 D16 seed into the North Regional. East Grand Forks beat Roseau 8-4, lost to Bemidji, and beat Crookston 10-3 to take the #3 D16 seed to the North Regional
Roseau, Crookston, Warroad, and Red Lake Falls were all eliminated.
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. The rivalry continued this year only early in the tourney when EGF eliminated the Rams.
Warroad always seems to struggle at the peewee level. They did four years ago. This year, Warroad’s high school team is seeded #1 in Section 8A. It’s one of those anomalies. Another one is Red Lake Falls seeded #3 in Section 8A.
How do the Warroads and Red Lake Falls happen? How do the kids struggle at 12-13 years old and excel at 16-17 years old. They are peewees. Who knows what they will do as they grow up. You can throw them in the right direction and only hope they don’t land on their heads.
South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - The South Regional is shaping up as follows: D4 has crowned their champion, Luverne. The D8 playoffs started last Sunday and will finish on this Sunday, February 27th. Eight teams are still playing. The snowstorm force D9 to postpone their Sunday finals. They will be played this Friday and Saturday in Mankato. Six teams are still playing.
If things follow as predicted here, the South Regional opening round games at Rochester would look like this. 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.
Lakeville South would win the play-in game with D9 for the #2 D4 seed.
District 4-Luverne has been the dominant peewee A team during the D4 regular season. They didn’t change for the playoffs. The Luverne Cardinals beat Marshall 10-2 and Redwood Falls 11-3 to become the first team to take a regional berth. They will be the #1 D4 seed in the South Regional tourney.
At the start of the season, Luverne Association took their 19 peewee kids (plus two goalies) and split them into an A team and a B team. They put nine players and one goalie on the A team. For those who have not run a bench for a game with 9 or less kids, it is tough. The coach has few options.
Opposing coaches can match up easily because they know who the next set of forwards will be (the four kids sitting in the bench). And the opposing coaches do matchup. That is competitive hockey. But the Luverne coaches have been good in the past in coping with the situation and have surprised teams.
In a bit of irony, the Luverne high school team placed third in the Southwest conference. Marshall was the regular season champion. Luverne is seeded 5th in Section 3, Class A. Their opening game is this Thursday and their opponent is #4 seeded Marshall.
District 8 - D8 playoffs open last Sunday at Hastings with four play-in games. Hastings beat IGH/SSP 6-0 in the first game; Lakeville North beat Johnson/Como 6-3 in the second game; Sibley beat Eagan 5-1 in the third game; and Eastview beat archrival Apple Valley 8-3 in the last play-in game of the day.
Hastings is playing at home and as always plays well in the D8 playoffs after forming their team late. The Raiders played top ranked Farmington Tuesday night in the Hastings West Rink. The smaller rink was packed with fans. Both teams showed up to play. The game had that neighboring town rivalry feeling.
It was a fast paced game that had constant puck movement. The pace was maintained for most of the game. The Tigers would set up in Raiders zone for a period of time, but were forced to move the puck quickly and that led to Raider counter attacks. Neither team could get quality shots. Farmington’s attacks always ended up low with the Farmington forwards jamming at the puck.
Farmington won the game 4-0. They led 2-0 going into the third period. Three of their four goals were on power plays. The Tigers’ low pressure around the Hasting’s goal forced the Raider’s goalie to play strong. He did, he had a great game.
The two Lakevilles played the second game of the D8 quarterfinals Tuesday night. That game started slow and had a lot of scoring in the first period. Five goals were scored with the Panthers taking a 3-2 lead into the second period. South came back to score three goals to take a 5-3 and held on for a 5-4 win.
Lakeville North had four players out at one point a month ago. And it showed as the Panthers went 1-6-1 in their last eight regular season games. The North had all 15 players for their game with South. But with so many kids out, it is hard to re-group right before playoff time. The Panthers are not out of the tourney. They will have their hands full playing Hastings on Saturday in a “loser goes home game”.
Farmington and Lakeville South will meet Saturday with the D8 #1 or #2 seed at stake. Farmington beat South in late January 9-1. But it is playoff time.
IGH/SSP and Johnson/Como were eliminated when they lost their opening games. IGH/SSP has talent and it started to show during their own tourney a month ago. But they have struggled since then. The Johnson/Como team is new to D8 this year with D1 no longer playing competitive hockey. The Devils have worked hard over the season, playing an extensive schedule and not really backing off. They did not win a game in their first 15 played. Then they entered Albert Lea’s tourney in mid-December. They swept the opposition and won the championship. After that tourney, they played .500 hockey. They are out of the playoffs, but they have had a good year.
Sibley plays Rosemount on Friday in the opening game of the lower bracket. They have improved over the season. They tended to rely on their best players in early season games and struggled. But in games just before the playoffs, their forwards had started to play hockey. Only their defense has struggled. It has improved in the last few weeks and it shows. The Generals have held the opposition to 1 or 2 goals in four of their last six games. Their win over Eagan was no surprise.
Eastview plays Woodbury in the final quarterfinal game. The Lightning have struggled at the end of the season. A Lightning win over an Apple Valley team is always a positive sign because of the rivalry involved. Apple Valley struggled all season. The Eagles lost some of their top players to the Fire this year.
It was a tough Tuesday for Hastings and Lakeville North. Sibley plays Rosemount and Eastview plays Woodbury on Friday and it looks like a tough Friday for Sibley and Eastview. Sibley lost to Rosemount 7-0 two weeks ago. Eastview lost to Woodbury 7-0 in early December. Should they lose, the Eastview/Sibley winner will be in a good position to win at least a shot at the play-in game with D9.
The winner will play the loser of the Farmington/Lakeville South game. It will be the second game on Saturday for both teams, but Farmington/Lakeville South loser will have a couple of hours less to recover. It has been the way D8 runs their tourney for last 10 years.
The Hastings/Lakeville North winner on Saturday will be in much tougher position. They will have to play the loser of the Woodbury/Rosemount game to get a shot at least the play-in game. But anything goes at playoff time, especially if it is Hastings at Hastings.
D9 play-in game and third place seed will be settled on Friday. The #4 seed from D9 will be Mankato, Dodge County, Owatonna, or New Ulm.
With the D8 seeds not settled until the Saturday, nothing has changed. Farmington remains the favorite and this week has the #1 seed, Woodbury keeps the #2 seed and Rosemount the #3 seed. Lakeville South is favored to take the #4 seed and the right to play the #4 D9 seed for the D4 #2 seed to the South Regional.
District 9 - The D9 playoff games on Sunday were postponed, but the saga of the Rochester Red continues. Last Friday, the Red won their first official D9 game of the season beating the Rochester Gold team 9-0. On Saturday, they won their second D9 beating Owatonna 7-1. Those two wins gave them a 2-0-0 D9 record and a seed to the South Regional. They play Northfield in the D9 championship game this Saturday.
Northfield got there by beating New Ulm 5-1 and Mankato 5-4. The Raiders now have a 13-2-1 D9 record and have earned the right to be in the championship game. Their win over Mankato assures the Raiders a seed to the South Regional. It will be Northfield’s first appearance in a PeeWee A regional in over of a dozen years. It maybe Northfield’s first ever appearance.
Owatonna beat Dodge County 6-1 in their first playoff game. Mankato beat Rochester Black 4-1 in the Mavericks first game. Dodge County beat Rochester Gold 2-0 to eliminate the Gold from the tourney. New Ulm beat Rochester Black 6-3 to eliminate the Black from the tourney. Mankato plays Dodge County and Owatonna plays New Ulm on Friday. The winners of those two games will meet for the #3 seed. The loser will get a ticket to the play-in game for the #2 D4 seed.
The Rochester Red team has gone through a “trial year” playing an independent schedule. In the past 30 years that I have watched peewee A teams, I have seen over and over again different approaches to teach 12-14 year kids to excel in hockey. The approaches always change. One thing is certain that because of maturing limitations, the kids can learn only so much at that age.
Rochester fielded two A teams in D8 for at least six years. The 2004-2005 season was the last year they entered two teams in D8. That year, both Rochester teams finished behind Red Wing and one team finished behind Dodge County. In 2005-2006 season, if memory serves me right, Rochester ended up with one team in D8 even though they had formed an A and an A2 team.
D8 would not allow the A2 team in the league. In 2005-2006, Dodge County took second place in D8 with a 15-1 record. The Rochester team finished behind Dodge County and barely beat them in the D8 playoffs for the #3 seed to advance.
Rochester Red had the easiest path in the D9 playoffs. They should improve their unbeaten D9 record to 3-0-0 and take the #1 seed D9 to the South Regional. They would likely play Woodbury or Rosemount in their first regional game. Northfield would then end up with the #2 seed and draw Woodbury or Rosemount. Three teams, Mankato, Owatonna, and New Ulm are the favorites to take either the #3 seed or the play-in game invite. Dodge County and Mankato have played once this year, in early December. Mankato beat Dodge County 9-2. Owatonna and New Ulm have played each twice this year. Owatonna won both of the games, 6-2 and 6-2. Mankato and Owatonna are favored.
East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - The East Regional is shaping up as follows: D2 had a surprise when the lowest seeded team, Mahtomedi, won a regional seed last weekend. The Zephyrs were joined by White Bear Lake. The two teams will play Saturday for the #1 seed. In D10, Elk River and Blaine are playing this weekend for the #1 or #2 seed. Both teams will be in the tourney.
D11 had the biggest surprise when Proctor beat the Duluth Lakers and then had to forfeit the game a day later. D11’s two seeds are still up in the air.
Both D10 and D11 had controversies in their playoffs last week interpreting player eligibility rules. The controversy was generated in trying to interpret the “new?” five penalties in a game and you are out for that game and the next game. In D10, though Centennial played an ineligible player, they did not have to forfeit. The player involved sat the next game.
We, as adults, look foolish when we make rules that affect kids and then don’t know how they are applied. Somebody can always come up with a new idea and then a new rule. But nobody follows through. We need fewer rules. That is because the game is hockey. It is supposed to be fun.
But one thing is certain. Very few rules should be made that result in a parent and kid sitting at home or in the stands while their team is on the ice.
If the projected winners this week hold, the East Regional draw would look like this. White Bear Lake would play Cloquet and Elk River would play Mahtomedi in the upper bracket. Hermantown would play Rogers and Blaine would play Roseville in the lower bracket.
District 2 - The D2 district playoffs opened with two surprises, #8 seeded Mahtomedi beat playoff favorite and #1 seed Roseville 4-3 in overtime. In a second playoff game between Tartan and Moundsview, skated simultaneously on Stillwater’s second sheet, Tartan beat Moundsview 2-1. That set up an unexpected battle between Mahtomedi and Tartan in the semifinals with the winner getting a seed to the East Regional on Sunday. The Zephyrs won 5-3. The #8 seeded Mahtomedi advances to the East Regional. They will play White Bear Lake to decide who gets the #1 seed at the Blizzard this Saturday. The loser of that game plays the winner of the third place game with the #2 and #3 seeds at stake.
White Bear Lake has struggled all season, a team with talent but just never quite there. Two weeks ago, in their own tourney they were beaten by Edina 10-0. The Bears beat Forest Lake 4-1 in their opening game and beat Stillwater 3-2 in overtime to make it to the championship game.
With only one D2 seed left, Roseville came back to beat a tough Moundsview team 6-3 to end the Mustangs season. The Raiders will play Stillwater on Thursday. Now the #1 and #2 seeded teams going into the D2 playoffs need to beat each other for the right to play for the last seed to the East Regional. The two teams split the two D2 games. Roseville winning the first game 6-1 and Stillwater the second game played at the end of January 2-1.
Tartan and Forest Lake play in the other game on Thursday. Forest Lake, after losing to White Bear Lake, beat Highland 5-4 in overtime to get there. Highland is out of the playoffs. Tartan beat Forest Lake 2-0 in the first week of the season last November. The two teams tied 1-1 in mid-January. This will be another tough game. Tartan has been playing well as the season ended, and Forest Lake has been struggling.
This is D2 hockey and the league has always had terrific balance. Seven of the eight associations will have had a peewee team in the regionals in the past four years. Eight teams if you include Highland. The Caps were not in D2 last year, but played in regionals in the past two years. The only team not on that list is Tartan.
This week, White Bear Lakes takes the #1 seed. The Bears should beat Mahtomedi.
Stillwater should win their next two games and beat Mahtomedi for the #2 seed. The Ponies game with Roseville will be tough. Tartan should be up to beat Forest Lake. All three teams, Roseville, Tartan, and Forest Lake have split their two D2 games with the Ponies this year. Mahtomedi should get the #3 seed. The Zephyrs are playing well as the season ends.
District 10 - Centennial ended up with an ineligible player even though they sought or asked D10 officials before the game. They played their opening game with the player in question and won 7-3. The player sat the second and Centennial to Blaine 4-2.
Elk River is the favorite. They beat Princeton 4-1 and Rogers 3-1 to make it to the D10 championship game on Saturday. The Elks are now assured of either the #1 or #2 D10 seed. Blaine joins the Elks in the championship game and is also assured of a seed. The Bengals beat Anoka 3-1 besides beating Centennial to get there.
In the other upper bracket opening game, Rogers beat Champlin Park. Champlin Park then beat Princeton 2-1 to end the Tigers season. Champlin Park now faces their “nemesis” Centennial in a winner go home game Saturday morning. In the last month of the season, Centennial beat the Rebels four times, 4-1, 5-3, 5-2, and 3-0. It is hard for one team to beat another team four times in a month at the peewee A level. The losing team just keeps learning until they find a way to win. Centennial should have their hands full.
Anoka, after losing to Blaine in the opening game, beat Spring Lake Park 3-2 to send the Panthers home. The Panthers have had a good season as their program continues to improve. Anoka plays Rogers in the second game on Saturday morning. Rogers has beaten Anoka twice during the season, 4-1 and 3-2. If Anoka wins Saturday’s game, they will play for the third seed on their home ice.
Elk River continues to be the favorite. But the Elk River/Blaine game is going to be a tough game. The Elks beat the Bengals twice 3-2 (in overtime) and 4-2. They lost once 4-2. The Elks keep the #1 seed and Blaine gets the #2 seed. The #3 seed is down to four teams and three games. Champlin Park plays Centennial and Anoka play Rogers. Centennial and Rogers are the favorites. Rogers tied Centennial 1-1 and beat the Cougars 3-0 during the Christmas Holidays. The edge goes to Rogers this week, they get the #3 seed.
District 11 - When the adults get too involved, they can really mess things up. Proctor opened the D11 playoff with a 4-3 win over the Duluth Lakers. When a Proctor player received his 5th penalty (another not so well thought out rule), instead of being thrown out of the game, he was allowed to play. He scored the winning goal.
That occurred Monday night. Tuesday afternoon, the adults in D11 forced the Rails to forfeit the game and then forced the Rails to play Duluth East Tuesday evening. The Rails lost 7-2 to end their season. The player involved also could not play in the second game.
This whole scenario is not good for youth hockey. More and more rules are being made and applied without allowing for circumstance. A D10 team also played a player who was ineligible for one game and won. There no forfeit was made. Now there is inconsistency.
Right or wrong, the Proctor matter was brought to the refs attention during the game. They made a decision. Now it gets more complicated. The more complicated the adults make the game, the less fun the game is for the kids and parents.
What kind of learning moment was this for the kids on both teams? What did they learn? Let’s play hockey.
In D11’s other Monday night game, Cloquet beat Duluth East 4-3. Hermantown and the Duluth Lakers played on Wednesday. The winner plays Cloquet. The winner of the Cloquet game will get one of the two D11 seeds.
This remains a tough district to figure out. Hermantown, Cloquet, and Duluth East are the likely teams to tangle for the two seeds. The Duluth Lakers need to beat Hermantown this Wednesday. What was said last week, remains so for this week. The #1 seed goes to Hermantown; the Hawks have struggled at times, but not against D11 foes.
As for the #2 seed, Cloquet beat Duluth East in the playoff once already. No need for the old zinc penny to come out. Cloquet takes the #2 seed. But it is always tough to beat a peewee A team twice.
West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The West Regional is shaping up as follows: In the opening game a week from Friday, St. Cloud would play Mpls Storm and Burnsville would play MAML in the upper bracket. Wayzata would play Prior Lake and Edina would play STMA in the lower bracket (providing all the predictions come true).
This region has a game of musically chairs going on. The D6 teams do not want to end up playing Wayzata in the opening game. Both Burnsville and Edina want the #1 seed, but they may be fooled if the Mpls Storm beat Wayzata on Saturday.
District 3 - D3 is the only district that has no team assured of a regional seed. Wayzata opened the playoffs beating Hopkins 12-1 and Armstrong 5-2. This Saturday, the Trojans will play Mpls Storm for the #1 seed. The loser has to battle either OMG or Armstrong for the #2 seed. The Storm beat Orono 6-4 and Osseo/Maple Grove 3-1 to get to the championship game.
The winner will get the #1 D3 seed to the West Regional. The loser plays the winner of the OMG/Armstrong game for the #2 D3 seed on Sunday. Wayzata and the Mpls Storm have played each other twice at the start of the year. The Trojans won the first game 6-0 and tied the second game 0-0.
OMG beat Mound/Westonka 3-0 before losing to the Storm. They beat Hopkins 5-2 to make Saturday’s final. Hopkins beat Crow River 5-4 to end the Tigers first season in D3. Hopkins always amazes with their improvement over the year. The Royals seemed always get beat early on and become a hard team to beat late in the season. Crow River had a successful D3 season ending with a 9-7 record. That is better than most expected.
Armstrong had a great season and was one of the hardest working teams this year. It showed when they opened the playoffs with a 5-1 win over Crow River before losing to Wayzata. Armstrong came back to beat Orono 5-4 to get their ticket to Saturday’s game at the PIC. They remain in the hunt.
Orono beat Mound/Westonka 6-0 to end the Whitehawks first D3 season. The Spartan’s loss to Armstrong ended their season. But they had a great year last year making the state tourney. This year the Spartans stuggled early on, but improved after playing in the Eveleth tourney in mid-January.
The Trojans take the #1 seed this week. The Storm can beat them, but playoffs are tough. The Strom get the #2 seed, but it would not be surprising to see Armstrong take it away from the storm in the final game.
District 5 - St. Cloud and STMA continued their dominance of D5, but things were getting tougher.
Both teams won their opening games easily. St. Cloud beat Litchfield 13-0 and STMA beat Sauk Rapids 8-1. Each had a tougher second game. St. Cloud beat Sartell 4-1 and STMA beat MAML 3-2. The Sartell/St. Cloud game was played at Sartell and should have generated a lot of interest. These two associations are neighbors. Some people refer to Sauk Rapids and Sartell as St. Cloud suburbs. Not a good thing to say.
The wins by St. Cloud and STMA put the season long rivals into the championship game on Saturday. One comes out with the #1 seed and will play the #2 D3 seed (Wayzata, Mpls Storm, Armstrong, or OMG). The other will get the #2 seed and will play the #2 D6 seed (Edina, Burnsville, Prior Lake, or Eden Prairie).
Litchfield beat Hutchinson 3-2 in the opening game. Sauk Rapids beat Willmar 2-1 in their opening game. Willmar played Buffalo in the opening game of the loser bracket. Buffalo had lost to Sartell. The Cardinals beat the Bison 7-2. Hutchinson played an improving River Lakes team that had narrowly lost to MAML 4-3. Hutchinson beat River Lakes 2-1 to end their season. River Lakes improved over their season and lost two tough games to get knocked out of the running for a regional seed.
In the second round of the losers bracket, Willmar beat Litchfield 3-2 and Hutchinson beat Sauk Rapids 3-0. The losses ended Litchfield’s and Sauk Rapids seasons. That set the draw for the #3 seed on Saturday. MAML plays Willmar and Sartell plays Hutchinson. MAML has two regular season wins over Willmar and is the favorite. Willmar has played well at the end of the season and continues to play well in the playoffs.
Sartell beat Hutchinson 9-3 and 4-2 during regular season and should be favored here. But last year Hutchinson came on strong at the end of the season to make the regional tourney, and it is looking like they could to do it again. Sartell has two regular season wins over MAML, 3-0 and 3-2.
D5 sends three teams to the regionals. Two teams, STMA and St. Cloud, will battle in Litchfield for the #1 and #2 seeds. St. Cloud gets the #1 seed this week and is the favorite to beat STMA. They hold two regular season wins (2-1 and 3-2) over STMA and are favorites to win on Saturday. STMA would get the #2 seed.
St. Cloud would then play the #2 D3 seed (Wayzata, Mpls Storm, Armstrong or OMG) and STMA would play the #2 D6 seed (Burnsville, Edina, Prior Lake, or Eden Prairie). MAML is favored to take the #3 seed, but anything can happen. Sartell, Willmar, and Hutchinson are all in the running. As the #3 seed, MAML 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. If MAML takes the #3 seed, the Moose would play either Edina or Burnsville in their first game of the West Regional.
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 giving 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 - Where is the eerie music, the kind that sends shivers up and down your spine. It is déjà vu in D6 again this year. Last year, on the Thursday before the final weekend, Edina beat Burnsville 5-4 to go to the championship game. Eden Prairie beat Prior Lake 2-1 to eliminate the Lakers from the playoffs and assure them the #1 seed.
This Thursday, Burnsville and Edina will play the same game all over again only Burnsville has the #1 seed (actually that could matter if the two teams tied). Burnsville won the season championship and sat in wait while Jefferson startled everyone by stringing playoff wins together.
The Jags started the gauntlet by beating Waconia last Friday 6-5 to keep alive. On Saturday they beat Chaska 4-3 to keep alive. On Monday, the Jags beat Minnetonka 4-2 to keep alive. On Tuesday, they lost to the Blaze 5-1 and dropped to the loser bracket.
Edina had to beat Prior Lake 5-1 to get to the championship game. Placing first or second in D6 has its rewards at playoff time and gives the regular season games extra importance. Both Burnsville and Edina had to play one playoff game to get to the regional and both teams three or four games in the next four days to decide on what seed they will get.
Prior Lake beat Eden Prairie 5-2 before they lost to Edina. In the loser bracket, Eden Prairie ended Jefferson’s great playoff run, beating the Jags 5-1. Prior Lake beat Minnetonka 4-3 to end the Skippers season. And déjà vu happens. The Lakers and the Eagles go at again for the #3 seed in what will be the second of two great games. Last year the Lakers lost by a goal.
The Burnsville/Edina game is a coin flip. The Blaze beat the Hornets at the end of regular season 5-4 to take the D6 regular season championship. Both teams are certain to go regionals, but can end up with any of the three seeds. The winner of Thursday game will not be guaranteed the #1. The top two teams play again on Saturday and if necessary Sunday to sort that out. Last year Edina and Burnsville battled in two weekend games, Burnsville winning. Burnsville lost in the regional a week later to Edina in a game for a state tourney entry. Edina went on to win the state title. It is not over until it is over.
Eden Prairie beat Prior Lake 2-1 and 4-3 in regular season before losing 5-2 in the first playoff game. The winner of this game will be playing for the #2 or #3 seed to the West Regional.
Burnsville takes the #1 seed this week, but Edina and Burnsville will likely play three games over the next four days to settle who gets the #1 seed. Edina takes the #2 seed and Prior Lake the #3 seed.
Under the new regional tourney format this year, this year (it changes from year to year) the #1 D6 seed will appear to have an easier path to a seed to the state tourney then the #2 or #3 seeds. The #1 D6 team opens against the #3 D5 team (MAML, Hutchinson, Sartell, or Willmar). The #2 D6 team opens against the #2 D5 team (St. Cloud or STMA) and the #3 D6 team opens against the #1 D3 team (Wayzata or Mpls Storm).
For those anticipating an easy match in their favorite D6 team’s opener, remember this is PeeWee A hockey. It's kids playing a game and anything can happen.