FELDY: Who's ready for some playoff hockey? Me too!
I had a chance this morning to peek at how the coaches voted in Section 1A and Section 1AA, which left a few interesting notes. The whole voting process intrigues me somewhat, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts. I won't reveal how the individual coaches voted, because there weren't a whole lot of surprises.
Coaches aren't allowed to vote for their own team, so in 1AA they are asked to rank the other eight teams on a 1-to-8 scale, with 1 being the best. In 1A, the coaches rank the other 11 teams on a 1-to-11 scale, again with 1 being the best. The highest vote and lowest vote for each team is thrown out, so, if a team gets six first-seed votes, a second-seed vote and a third-seed vote, one of the first-seed votes would be thrown out, as would the third-seed vote.
Teams receive 1 point for a first-seed vote, 2 points for a second-seed vote, etc., on down through 8 points for an eighth-seed vote.
We'll stick with 1AA here, and have a separate blog post on the 1A bracket a little later today.
It's no shock that Lakeville South received all eight first-seed votes, while Lakeville North earned seven second-seed votes and one first-seed vote (South gave North its vote for the No. 1 seed, since South cannot vote for itself).
Rochester Mayo earned the third seed, even though it had the broadest range of votes. The Spartans received two second-seed votes, three thirds, two fourths and a fifth (so the fifth and one of the seconds were thrown out).
JM, the fourth seed, finished two points behind Mayo in the voting, with 28 points. The Rockets received five thirds, two fourths and a fifth. The fifth-seed vote got tossed out (as did one of the third-seed votes). I'm still scratching my head as to how JM could possibly have received that fifth-seed vote.
All right, enough about the process, let's get to the bracket:
* Lakeville South: The top-seeded Cougars (14-8-2) have to be viewed as the favorite in the section. They have three of the most dynamic players in the section -- Jr. F Justin Kloos (35-43--78), Jr. F Alex Harvey (29-30--59) and Sr. D Drew Brevig (11-32--43). South faced only three Section 1AA opponents during the regular season, but rolled to three wins by a combined score of 25-6.
* Lakeville North:The defending section champion Panthers don't have the firepower that South has, but North has junior goalie Charlie Lindgren, who has shown in the past that he can take over a game. The Panthers will need Lindgren and the defense to play well throughout the tournament. They have just one player with more than 24 points, Jr. F Blake Winiecki (21-21--42). And North hasn't been able to hang with South in either of their two meetings this season (South holds 7-2 and 6-1 wins against North).
AN OUTSIDE CHANCE
* Rochester Mayo: The Spartans are the hottest team in the section, having lost just once in their past 11 games. After a 4-10-0 start, Mayo pushed Albert Lea down to the final day of the regular season for the Big Nine Conference title, before Albert Lea pulled it out. Mayo has improved by leaps and bounds since the first half of the season. Its power play -- led by Sr. D Bill Norman at the point -- has become lethal. The Spartans have a chance to win the section title because they have a goalie (Sr. Alex Van Galder) who has proved capable of carrying them to a win, and they know how to win games by playing defense first.
* Rochester John Marshall: The Rockets are in this group for two big reasons: The play of senior goalie Bryan King, and the leadership and urgency that eight experienced seniors provide. Those eight seniors have practiced and played for three years with this week in mind. It's their last shot at winning a section tournament game. If JM can stay out of the penalty box, it can adapt its style to keep itself in the game against the top teams in the section. It has received some big contributions from underclassmen, too, which will be needed throughout the section tournament.
* No. 5 Farmington lost its regular season matchup to John Marshall, who they'll face in Thursday's section quarterfinals at the Rochester Rec Center. But the Tigers are on a bit of a roll, having won four consecutive games. JM will need to have its eyes on No. 17 for Farmington at all times. Senior F Tyler Grubb has 51 points this season, including eight in the past three games.
* No. 6 Rochester Century has battled through injuries and illnesses for much of the season, relying mainly on two lines over the last few weeks of the regular season. Century's defensemen are capable of jumping into the play and creating offensive chances, too, so Mayo will have to be aware of that. The Panthers shouldn't have to search far for motivation. They are 1-2 against quarterfinal opponent Mayo this year, having lost twice to the Spartans in the past month, by a combined score of 8-0.
* No. 7 Owatonna has its hands full with North in the first round. The Huskies have to solve their own offensive issues before they worry too much about the Panthers. Owatonna has scored just six goals in its past six games. They've given up 33 goals in that same span.
* No. 8 Dodge County showed in last year's playoffs what can happen when a high seed underestimates its opponent. The Wildcats pushed Lakeville South in a 4-2 South victory in the quarterfinals, but D.C. had a lead in that game and it was tied 2-2 after two periods. The Wildcats have a bunch of seniors who play with confidence. They have to get past Winona first, and if they do, it's safe to say that Lakeville South will not underestimate D.C. this time.