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« PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: Back off the bench edition | Main | Boys Hockey | Section 1 schedules set »

February 17, 2012

Boys Hockey | Looking at Section 1AA

Posted by: Feldman

The boys hockey regular season comes to a close on Saturday and it doesn't look like much can happen in Saturday's games to alter the way teams will be seeded in next week's Section 1A and 1AA tournaments.

Section 1AA appears pretty clear cut, aside from the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds.

Before my long-winded theory on those two seeds, here's how the section should shake out (explanations shouldn't be necessary, aside from the 5-6 seeds): 1. Lakeville South, 2. Lakeville North, 3. Rochester Century, 4. Rochester Mayo, 5. Rochester John Marshall, 6. Owatonna, 7. Farmington, 8. Winona, 9. Dodge County.

The actual seeds will be determined Sunday afternoon. JM should be the No. 5 seed and Owatonna should be No. 6. For the past few weeks, it looked like it should fall the other way around, but a few games in the past week have changed things.

First, JM went to Owatonna last Saturday and shut out the Huskies, 2-0. That gave the teams a split of the season series, with Owatonna having beaten JM, 2-1 in OT, when the teams played in Rochester on Jan. 10.

Second and third, JM beat Austin on Thursday night, while Owatonna lost to Mankato West.

In my mind, those results sealed JM as the 5 seed for a couple of reasons. One, JM will now finish above the Huskies in the Big Nine Conference standings by at least one point. Two, JM is playing better hockey right now, having won four in a row, and the teams' records are nearly identical (JM is 12-5-0 in the Big Nine, 13-10-2 overall; Owatonna is 10-5-1, 13-8-3).

JM is done with its regular season, while Owatonna plays  host to Austin on Saturday, an almost certain victory.

Of course, coaches are human and emotion often plays a part in the seeding process when it really doesn't need to. We saw that a couple years ago in Section 1A when Faribault coach Brad Ryan seeded Rochester Lourdes No. 4, when all reasonable logic said the Eagles should have been no worse than No. 2 on every ballot. (In the end, Faribault got the top seed, but was knocked off by Red Wing in the section semifinals).

And though JM's record is just slightly worse than Owatonna's, that shouldn't really be a factor. Last season, Mayo was awarded the No. 3 seed ahead of JM, despite JM having beaten Mayo two out of three times in the regular season and having three more wins than the Spartans. Mayo had defeated JM in their final regular season meeting and, in all fairness, the Spartans were playing better than any team in the Big Nine when the regular season ended.

The seedings didn't work out for either team. Mayo lost to No. 6 seed Century in the quarterfinals, while JM lost at home to No. 5 Farmington.

The twist if JM gets the No. 5 seed ahead of Owatonna: it sets up a fourth meeting of the season between Mayo and JM. Mayo won two of the previous three. A fourth meeting would be a tossup. There's not much, at this point, these two teams don't know about each other. I could be wrong, but I bet both teams would be OK with not playing a fourth game against its oldest rival this year. The fans may want it, the players and coaches may get jacked up for it, but it also probably would cause coaches on both sides some restless nights next week.

From an unbiased perspective, I'd love to see JM and Mayo play again. There's nothing much better than rivals facing off with their seasons on the line. Of course, we will have an intra-city showdown if JM ends up as the 6 seed, too. The Rockets would stay on their home ice and face No. 3 Century in Thursday's quarterfinals.

Thursday can't get here soon enough!

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