Posted by: Feldman
What better way for The Tourney '15 to start than by earning the No. 1 play on SportsCenter's Top 10 and having the final game of the day decided on a good goal in OT?
Your move, Class AA.
The big boys start today in front of a sold out Xcel Energy Center, when 98 percent of the state (that number may be low) cheers on Bemidji against No. 2-seeded Edina in what could be a tremendous opening game.
Before we break down the AA games, here are some links to stories from yesterday's Class A quarterfinals and some links to Class AA tournament preview stories:
* Defending state champs knock off Section 1 champ New Prauge (Grand Forks Herald)
* Hermantown breezes into Class A semis (Duluth News Tribune)
* Hermantown is a loose group this year (Star Tribune)
* A young Duluth East team is proving its doubters wrong (Duluth News Tribune)
* Section 1AA champ Lakeville North in pursuit of perfection (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
* Everyone in Minnesota might be thinking about a potential Lakeville North-Edina matchup, except North and Edina (Star Tribune)
* The legacy of the 1990s Bloomington Jefferson powerhouse teams could be matched this weekend. (Pioneer Press)
• • •
CLASS AA STATE QUARTERFINALS
At Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
11 a.m. — Bemidji (23-3-2) vs. No. 2 Edina (24-1-2)
Overview: Bemidji has posted shutouts in seven of its past 10 games and has allowed a total of three goals in that stretch. However, all of the Lumberjacks players were at least a decade from being born the last time Bemidji made state (1986). Edina has been to nine consecutive state tournaments and has the two highest-scoring players in the field, Dylan Malmquist and Garrett Wait, a Gophers commit, both who have 71 points.
Bemidji leaders: Sr. Jake Leitner (22-25--47); Jr. Nick Leitner (7-8--15); Sr. goalie Grant Tharaldson (16-2-2, 1.28 GAA, .928 save pct.).
Edina leaders: Sr. Dylan Malmquist (28-43--71); Jr. Garrett Wait (23-48--71); Sr. Paul Meyer (4-18--22); Sr. goalie Kobi Boe (21-1-2, 1.68, .914).
The pick: As much as many Minnesotans would like to see Bemidji open the day with an upset, it's difficult to pick against Edina this time of year: Edina 3, Bemidji 1 (en).
• • •
1 p.m. — Duluth East (14-10-4) vs. No. 3 St. Thomas Academy (24-4-0)
Overview: Duluth East is in its seventh consecutive state tournament and 22nd overall. It hasn't beaten another state tournament team this season, but will play a puck possession game and attempt to keep the score down. STA is making its first Class AA tournament appearance after making eight in Class A, including winning five titles.
East leaders: Sr. Nick Altmann (14-13--27); Jr. Ash Altmann (10-14--24); Sr. goalie Gunnar Howg (10-6-4, 2.46, .904).
STA leaders: Sr. Alec Broetzman (35-31--66); Sr. Christiano Versich (24-42--66); Sr. Peter Tufto (30-42--72); Sr. D Seamus Donohue (5-34--39); Sr. goalie Matt Snow (17-3, 1.92, .912).
The pick: East is 0-5 against tournament teams this season. That won't change in the opener: STA 5, East 3.
• • •
6 p.m. — Hill-Murray (21-7-0) vs. No. 1 Lakeville North (28-0-0)
Overview: Hill is back at state for a third time in four years. It was upset in the section final last year by Stillwater, but avenged that loss in this year's section semifinals. North won't sneak up on anyone in the state this year. Led by six Division I commits, the Panthers are unbeaten, ranked No. 1 in the state and seeded No. 1 in the tournament. They haven't lost in almost a year, since an 8-2 loss to Edina in last year's state championship game.
H-M leaders: Sr. Zach Mills (23-21--44); Sr. Davis Zarembinski (7-19--26); So. Marko Reifenberger (19-21--40); So. goalie Jake Begley (11-2, 1.39, .925).
North leaders: Sr. Jack Poehling (34-35--69); Sr. Nick Poehling (32-31--63); So. Ryan Poehling (15-32--47); Jr. Max Johnson (17-30--47); Jr. goalie Ryan Edquist (26-0, 1.30, .940).
The pick: Would this really be considered a huge upset if Hill was to win? It won 21 games this season against a tough schedule and has a pair of 40-point scorers. Hill will give North a run, but ultimately the Panthers' depth and goalie play will carry them through to the semis: North 4, H-M 1.
• • •
8 p.m. — No. 5 Eden Prairie (18-9-0) vs. No. 4 Blaine (22-5-1)
Overview: E.P. lost 13 seniors from last year's team, including a pair of Mr. Hockey candidates. It hasn't skipped a beat, though, and has two Division I commits -- Michael Graham (UMD) and Casey Mittlestadt (Minnesota). Blaine has a first-year head coach and lost 15 seniors off last year's team. But aside from top-seeded North, it might be the hottest team in the state. It hasn't lost in its past 17 games (16-0-1), allowing less than 30 goals in that span. Its leading scorer, Riley Tufte, is a UMD commit.
E.P. leaders: Soph. Casey Mittlestadt (24-26--50); Jr. Michael Graham (23-23--46); Sr. D Andy Aguilar (1-15-16); Sr. goalie Shaun Durocher (14-7, 2.70, .904).
Blaine leaders: Jr. Riley Tufte (27-32--59); Jr. Luke Notermann (26-29--55); Sr. Easton Brodzinski (30-21--51); Jr. goalie Jon Kallestad (12-2-1, 2.21, .920); Jr. goalie junior Ridge Gerads (10-3-0, 2.15, .914).
The pick: Blaine hasn't lost since Jan. 2. That streak might not make it through the weekend, but it makes it through tonight: Blaine 5, Eden Prairie 4.
• • •
• Edina vs. STA: The heads of hockey fans around the state might explode having to watch these two powerhouse programs that, ummmm, aren't the most-liked teams around, face off with a spot in the state title game on the line. Could Edina draw support from the fans as the public school in this battle? Could STA draw support as the former Class A team that moved up to face the big dogs? Could fans just hope for a double-countout and have the title awarded to the winner of the other semifinal? Probably not, there has to be a winner: Edina 4, STA 3 (OT).
• North vs. Blaine: Don't count out the Bengals in this one. Watching North in the Section 1AA tournament, it took 6-7 minutes to get up to full speed. North doesn't take a lot of shots, but it works for good ones. I'd be tempted to call an upset here, but I love the way North goalie Ryan Edquist plays. He'll be the difference in this one: North 4, Blaine 1 (en).
• • •
It's the rematch everybody wanted ... well, some people wanted. I like this North team a lot. It does things the right way. It makes the smart play, moves the puck well and has the chemistry that the great teams always have. Edina has only lost once all season, though, that coming against North, back in the first week of December. As much as I'd love to see North represent Section 1 and bring a state title back to Lakeville with it, it is incredibly difficult to go unbeaten in Minnesota high school hockey: Edina 3, North 2.