Posted by: Feldman
After a wild opening night in the Section One, Class A boys hockey tournament, what should we expect tonight? More of the same, most likely. I sound like a broken record, but nothing that happens in the Section 1A tournament from this point on will be a surprise. Three of the five games played Tuesday were decided by a goal, one in double overtime and another in OT.
No. 4 seed Faribault avoided a major upset when it scored a power-play goal with 3:30 left in the third period to eke out a 2-1 win against No. 13 seed Austin, which won just three games all year. Austin competed well against the best teams in the section, though. The Packers played No. 2 seed Mankato West and Faribault to one-goal games this season, tied No. 6 seed Red Wing, and also played one-goal games against section opponents Winona and Waseca.
The Section 1AA tournament gets going tonight, with undefeated and No. 1-ranked Lakeville North (25-0-0) the clear-cut favorite.
The game to watch tonight in 1AA is right here in Rochester, as No. 4 seed Mayo plays host to No. 5 seed Century in the third meeting this season and 51st overall between the long-time rivals. The teams split a pair of 4-3 games during the regular season, with Century edging Mayo last Saturday in the regular-season finale. Both of those regular-season matchups were played with the intensity cranked up to 11. My guess is both teams will take that even higher tonight; if one of them doesn't, its season will be over.
That said, tonight's game will come down to which team plays smart hockey, makes the simple plays, executes its systems the best and STAYS OUT OF THE BOX. We could say that about pretty much every postseason game at any level of hockey, but it's true, stupid penalties are killers this time of year. They dang near cost Rochester Lourdes on Tuesday in a 3-2, overtime, first-round Section 1A victory against Mankato East.
So let's get to tonight's Section 1 games; I'll cover 'em all in two sentences each. Since I posted Section 1A predictions on Tuesday, I should do the same for 1AA (you'll never ever guess who I pick to win it) today. After looking at each of today's games, I'll post some more thoughts about Lourdes' dramatic win on Tuesday, then my Section 1AA predictions.
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SECTION 1AA QUARTERFINALS
All games at 7 p.m., at higher seed
* No. 8 Dodge County (7-17-0) at No. 1 Lakeville North (25-0-0), Ames Arena, Lakeville: North has 3 Mr. Hockey finalists, 5 Division I commits (so far) and the No. 1 ranking in the state. To say it's an uphill battle for D.C. is like saying "I think I'll take a little stroll to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro today."
* No. 5 Rochester Century (15-7-3) at No. 4 Rochester Mayo (16-8-1), Graham Arena I: Juding by their regular-season meetings, this should be the game of the night in 1AA. Storyline to watch: A confident senior in goal for Mayo (Chris Wileman) vs. a confident freshman in goal for Century (Cole Walter).
* No. 6 Rochester John Marshall (13-12-0) at No. 3 Farmington (17-7-1), Schmitz-Maki Ice Arena, Farmington: Farmington has ended JM's season two of the past three years, but I haven't seen the Rockets look intimidated against anyone this season. For JM to win this one, junior goalie Brady Meyers has to be lights-out and JM's scoring depth has to show through.
* No. 7 Owatonna (11-12-2) at No. 2 Lakeville South (14-10-1), Hasse Arena, Lakeville: Owatonna is playing well, going 4-1-1 in its final six regular-season games. However, the Huskies have only beaten two teams with winning records all season.
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SECTION 1A QUARTERFINALS
All games at 7 p.m., at higher seed
* No. 8 Rochester Lourdes (6-18-2) at No. 1 New Prague (17-8-0), New Prague Community Center: Lourdes has a lot of confidence and momentum on its side after finally getting a one-goal victory, rallying from two down to beat Mankato East in Tuesday's first round. New Prague, the defending section champion, probably isn't thrilled to see Lourdes come to town for the Trojans' first playoff game this season.
* No. 5 LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter/TCU/Cleveland (19-7-0) at No. 4 Faribault (18-7-1), Faribault Ice Arena: Faribault is not playing its best hockey right now and just suffered a 4-1 loss against LH/SP/TCU/C only nine days ago. The Falcons need to find their scoring touch again and can't get into a track meet against L-H/SP and the state's top scorer, Sam Wenner.
* No. 6 Red Wing (8-17-1) at No. 3 Northfield (14-9-2), Northfield Ice Arena: Northfield beat Red Wing twice during the regular season, both times by three goals. Guessing this one will be closer, but does Red Wing have enough energy left for another tight game after going to double-OT on Tuesday?
* No. 7 Albert Lea at No. 2 Mankato West, All Seasons Arena, Mankato: Albert Lea was the only Section 1 team that didn't have to sweat out a close first-round game on Tuesday, beating La Crescent 7-1. As for West, wouldn't it be something if, after all of the talented seniors it lost from last season, the Scarlets end up going to state this year?
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Lourdes is playing with confidence
Some might say that, if we're being honest, Rochester Lourdes probably shouldn't be playing tonight. But that's really not the case. Sure, the Eagles got a fluke goal to start their rally late in the third period of a 3-2 overtime victory against Mankato East on Tuesday.
The Eagles outplayed East for a majority of the game, they just couldn't get anything past Cougars goalie Jack Cusey. That changed once Lourdes senior D Griff Slightam lofted a puck toward the goal from the blue line; it landed behind Cusey and went into the net to pull Lourdes within 2-1 with less than five minutes to go. Slightam scored again two minutes later to force OT, then fed Tucker Chapman seconds into OT for the game winner.
Lourdes has been through so many close games -- 11 1-goal losses, 17 losses by 2 or less -- this season that the hockey gods were bound to give them one sooner or later. The question is: Can Lourdes get another one?
The Eagles have their work cut out for them tonight, facing defending section champion and No. 1 seed New Prague.
Lourdes is playing with confidence, though. And it knows it can hang with New Prague. The teams played a pair of one-goal games in the regular season, with the Trojans winning both times (New Prague went 6-0-0 against section opponents). As always, Lourdes needs senior goalie Jack Burkel to be sharp and they'll have to have a more defense-first mindset tonight. East got behind the Eagles' defensemen a handful of times on Tuesday. My guess is Lourdes won't get away with allowing a bunch of odd-man rushes tonight.
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Now, some Section 1AA predicitions, and I really go out on a limb here, so brace yourself...
Lakeville North 13, Dodge County 1: D.C. gets a late goal to spoil the shutout.
Lakeville South 9, Owatonna 3: South scores early, often to advance to semis.
Farmington 5, Rochester JM 3: Rockets push til the end before an empty-netter seals the Tigers' win.
Mayo 4, Century 3: The coin says heads; Mayo wins by the same score as the other two Mayo-Century games had this season.
North 7, Mayo 2: What can we say? North is the best team in the state.
South 3, Farmington 2, OT: Maybe the best game of the tournament, South finds a way to beat Gage Overby and the Tigers.
North 8, South 2: North wants to send a message to the teams it'll face at state. It does that against its top rival.