CLASS AA STATE BOYS HOCKEY TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE
Games played Thursday, March 5 at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
11:00: Bemidji vs. Edina (Seed 2)
1:00: Duluth East vs. St. Thomas Academy (Seed 3)
6:00: Hill-Murray vs. Lakeville North (Seed 1)
8:00: Eden Prairie (Seed 5) vs. Blaine (Seed 4)
Examining the field: After a full day of Class A quarterfinal action, it’s the Class AA team’s turn in the Xcel Energy Center spotlight before thousands of fans. First up the Bemidji Lumberjacks, playing in their first tournament since 1986 face the two time defensing champion Edina Hornets. Last time, Bemidji played in St. Paul was the year they lost their top player George Pelawa, who was about to play for North Dakota next season in a car accident. The Lumberjacks will have a difficult task ahead against a high power offense in the Hornets. Edina had no problem in the Section 2AA final, blasting the Burnsville Blaze 10-1. Paul Meyer got a hat trick to clinch their ninth straight trip to state. Put down your axe Paul Bunyan and head for the nearest big screen TV to see Bemidji and Edina.
Rounding out the afternoon session is the Duluth East Greyhounds and the third seeded St. Thomas Academy Cadets. The two teams met in the quarterfinals of the Schwan Cup December 29 with the Cadets beating the Greyhounds 4-1. Duluth East, in their 21st trip to state has played a rigorous independent schedule, playing 19 games against metro area teams. Their record against the metro is 6-9-3. The Cadets, winners of five state titles go for their first since moving up to Class AA. Can they become the first school since Benilde-St. Margaret’s to win a state title in Class A & AA.
Opening the evening session is the Hill-Murray Pioneers and the top seeded and unbeaten Lakeville North Panthers. The Pioneers, in their 27th state tournament appearance are the third team from the new Metro East Conference along with Mahtomedi and St. Thomas Academy to play in this year’s tournament. There will be plenty of green clad fans who will fill the X;s seats as they get a look at a team that could be the first since Bloomington Jefferson in 1993 to go undefeated. The key to the Panthers success has been The Brothers Poehling (pronounced Payling.) Jack, Ryan and Nick Poehling are to Lakeville North hockey as The Bee Gees were to mid to late 70s Top 40 music. They have had a lot of success this season and they are the favorites to bring a trophy down I-35 to Lakeville. There could be Saturday Night Fever for the Panthers if they’re Stayin’ Alive in the Class AA final.
Wrapping up two days of quarterfinal play will be the fifth seeded Eden Prairie Eagles and the fourth seeded Blaine Bengals. Will Louie Roehl, Marc Sullivan and Riley Argetsinger return after sitting out the section final for their role in the Section 6AA semifinal brawl against Benilde-St. Margaret’s? A pair of sophomores played a large role in the Eagles return trip to St. Paul. Casey Mittelstadt scored off a centering pass from Nolan Sullivan in overtime to beat the Minnetonka Skippers. The Bengals are in their 11th tournament and are anchored by Luke Notermann and Riley Tufte and have not lost a game since January 2, losing 2-1 to East Grand Forks. If the Eagles are full strength, it should be an interesting game to watch.
That’s the quarterfinal pairings as there could be more than 100,000 fans populating the Kellogg Blvd. venue known as The X.