Posted by: Feldman
This will serve as an extended version of High School hockey today. The Section 1A tournament begins with five first-round games tonight (I cringe when they are called play-ins; they're tournament games, just like quarterfinals and semifinals), so we'll take a look here at the wide-open 1A tourney.
I'll preview the Section 1AA tournament in Wednesday's P-B and take a look at that bracket here on the blog either Wednesday or Thursday (it's safe to say that tournament is not as wide-open as 1A).
This should be as fun as any Section 1A tourney in recent memory. Last year's was enjoyable to watch, too, particularly the well-played section title game between New Prague and Mankato West, where New Prague built a 3-0 lead through two periods then held off a furious charge by West in the third.
Could we see a rematch of that title game? Absolutely.
Could we see two different teams in this year's title game? Absolutely.
I have been looking at the bracket since it came out Sunday and I think every time I look at and pick winners in my head, the results are different.
First, some hockey-related links to stories from around the area and the state:
* Here is my preview of the Section 1A tournament, including a short look at the top seeds and the local teams, as well as three players who could have a big impact on the tournament.
* The girls hockey state tournament begins Wednesday. Red Wing is going for a fifth consecutive season and it's bringing its deepest defensive corps.
* The Star Tribune looks at each of the 16 boys hockey sections in one sentence each.
* Mankato Free Press hockey writer Shane Frederick writes that Mankato East seniors are looking to win the first playoff game of their high school careers, and Mankato West hopes to navigate a competitive Section 1A tournament and get to the state tournament.
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As for the Section 1A bracket, it had to be fun to be part of the seeding meeting.
Maybe the only clear-cut decision was New Prague earning the No. 1 seed by going 6-0-0 against section opponents.
Every other team had some wins and losses along the way that could have justified moving them up or down. For example, Mankato West was awarded the No. 2 seed, which they earned and deserved, but the Scarlets lost to LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter, Faribault and Red Wing, and tied Rochester Lourdes, all teams seeded below them.
The seeds played out like this: 1-New Prague, 2-West, 3-Northfield, 4-Faribault, 5-L-H/SP, 6-Red Wing, 7-Albert Lea, 8-Lourdes, 9-East, 10-La Crescent, 11-Waseca, 12-Winona, 13-Austin.
If I had a vote, this is how I had them ranked: 1-New Prague, 2-West, 3-Faribault, 4-Northfield, 5-LHSP, 6-East, 7-Albert Lea, 8-Red Wing, 9-Lourdes, 10-LaCrescent, 11-Waseca, 12-Winona, 13-Austin.
It just goes to show that there was a lot of wiggle room for those teams from about Nos. 6-10.
I also had Faribault ahead of Northfield because they split during the regular season and Faribault finished ahead of Northfield in the Big 9. But I have no problem with Northfield being the 3, as you'll see at the end of this post.
* East was the one team I was way off about. My guess is the Cougars' 1-5-0 record down the stretch didn't help their seed, but I was looking at their wins against Albert Lea (twice), Faribault, Red Wing and L-H/SP. They also lost to Faribault, Red Wing and L-H/SP late in the season, so that justifies East as the No. 9 seed. As I looked through results, I wished Lourdes and East had played during the regular season. I guess we'll get that wish tonight.
* It is good to see Red Wing get the No. 6 seed. The Wingers are 6-3-0 in their past nine games after a 1-14-1 start. That start wasn't as bad as the record looks, though, as they went to OT six times in that stretch and lost seven one-goal games. If Red Wing gets past Waseca, Northfield better lace its skates tight for a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday. (Though, to be fair, Northfield was the one Big 9 team that handled Red Wing fairly well during the regular season, scoring a pair of three-goal wins).
Against my better judgement, I'll go ahead and make some picks. Feel free to let me know why I'm wrong...
Rochester Lourdes 4, Mankato East 3: East is a scrappy team. Its 7-5 loss to Rochester Mayo on Feb. 3 keeps sticking in my head. Mayo coach Lorne Grosso talked about how resilient East is, how they don't stop coming after you. I'm extremely tempted to pick them here, but I think Lourdes senior goalie Jack Burkel will win this one for his teammates. Lourdes has only scored more than three goals in a game four times this season. They'll do it for a fifth time and advance to face top-seeded New Prague on Thursday.
LeSueur-Henderson/SP/TCU/C 6, Winona 1: The state's leading scorer Sam Wenner and the LHSPTCUC (that looks like I hit the caps-lock button and mashed my hand on the keyboard) Bulldogs roll on.
Faribault 8, Austin 2: I thought Faribault should have a bye tonight, but the No. 4 seed in the section will pounce on the Packers early and pull away to move on to Thursday's section quarterfinals.
Red Wing 6, Waseca 3: The Wingers are 6-1-0 over the past month against Section 1A opponents. They'll make it 7-1-0 after taking down Waseca.
Albert Lea 5, La Crescent 2: Albert Lea is on a three-game winning streak after snapping a seven-game losing skid. The Tigers are playing with confidence and that will carry them past the Lancers (19-6-0), who put up a good record primarily against teams from Wisconsin.
New Prague 4, Lourdes 2 (en): Lourdes pushes the top-seeded Trojans, but NP gets a late empty-netter.
L-H/SP/TCU/C 4, Faribault 3: The Bulldogs pull the first (mild) upset of the tourney and advance to the Rec Center.
Northfield 5, Red Wing 3: The Raiders were the only 1A team to beat Red Wing over the past month. They'll do it for a third time this season.
Mankato West 6, Albert Lea 2: West's upperclassmen have had a sour taste in their mouths for a year, since that close loss to New Prague in last year's section final. They start their push for a state tourney berth with a big win.
New Prague 5, L-H/SP/TCU/C 2: The Trojans figure out how to slow the Bulldogs' high-scoring offense and return to the section final.
Northfield 6, Mankato West 5: The game turns into a track meet at the Rec Center and Northfield gets the last goal, late in the third, to win.
Northfield 2, New Prague 1, OT: Why do I think this is Northfield's year to get to state? I just feel like, in a wide-open section like this, someone other than the top seed will come out of it. The Raiders have lost five games since the start of January. Three of those came against Class AA teams. The other two -- against Mankato West and Faribault -- both came by one goal. I think the Raiders flip those two one-goal games in the playoffs and advance to state. Plus, when these teams met in the regular season, New Prague had to score twice in the third period to rally from a 2-1 deficit to win. Northfield hangs on this time.
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My apologies to Northfield for likely jinxing you.
This section is entirely up for grabs. The team I just picked to win it could quite possibly not even play a game at the Rec Center. Would it really surprise anyone if Red Wing went to Northfield on Thursday and won? No. Would it completely surprise anyone if No. 9 East or No. 8 Lourdes goes to New Prague on Thursday and wins a close one? It shouldn't.
Finally, if you're looking to follow tonight's games on Twitter, here's a quick list to check:
No. 9 East at No. 8 Lourdes -- me (@PBFeldy), Lourdes activities (@LHSEagles), and perhaps @PaulAllan5 for the East perspective
No. 12 Winona at No. 5 LHSPTCUC -- Bulldogs hockey (@BBulldog_Hockey)
No. 13 Austin at No. 4 Faribault -- check out Miles Trump (@FDNMilesTrump), Faribault activities (@Frbo_Falcons), Faribault hockey (@FBO_BHS_Hockey)
No. 11 Waseca at No. 6 Red Wing -- I'm guessing either Kyle Stevens (@RE_KStevens) or Joe Brown (@RE_JBrown) will be at Prairie Island Arena for this one
No. 10 La Crescent at No. 7 Albert Lea -- check Albert Lea hockey (@BoysALhockey), La Crescent coach JP Piche (@JeepPiche30), or the Albert Lea Tribune (@altribunesports)