Would it really be the Class A girls’ state high school hockey tournament if Blake wasn’t involved?
The defending state champion Bears enter the tournament for the fifth straight season after dispatching rival Breck 5-4 in the Section 5-A finals, earning the top seed in the state tournament bracket.
St. Paul United and Warroad are also back for another round in St. Paul, with United earning the No. 2 seed and the Warriors taking the No. 3 seed. The teams could meet again in the semifinals, a repeat of last season where St. Paul United edged the Warriors 4-3.
No. 4 seed Mound Westonka features a high-scoring offense and one of the state’s leading scorers, and is a team to keep an eye on.
Following is a preview of the quarterfinal matchups, to be played on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center.
Credit: Peter Odney.
A pair of future Ivy Leaguers power the St. Paul United offense, with senior Joie Phelps (24-32-56) and junior Samantha Burke (21-20-41) leading the team in scoring. Both players have committed to play at Cornell when their United careers end.
Freshman forward Jenna Hoops (17-12-29) recorded three goals and five points in Section 4-A play, and could give the United another option if an opposing team keys in on Phelps and Burke. Eighth-grader Jillian Oncay should start for the United (19-6-2) after posting a goals-against-average of 1.32 and six shutouts over the course of the season.
A strong start will be key for Mankato East (17-8-2), a team that has outscored opponents 38-17 in the first period this season. Senior forwards Ali Schreiber (28-22-50) and Taylor Kanstrop (17-17-34) pace the Cougars in scoring.
Suffering just one loss in its last 12 games, Warroad comes into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the field. Keeping things warm for the Warriors (17-8-2) is the electric duo of junior Madison Oelkers (33-44-77) and senior Mariah Gardner (36-34-70), who both have committed to Minnesota State. Senior goaltender Emma Brunelle has racked up seven shutouts this season for the Warriors.
Hibbing/Chisholm emerged from Section 7-A as the third seed, outscoring opponents 14-2 in the process. The Bluejackets (17-10-1) have a nice balance on offense, fueled by senior forward and Minnesota-Duluth commit Mallorie Iozzo (31-31-62) and senior forward Lilly Rewertz (17-24-41). Sophomore goaltender Abby Edstrom stopped 58 of 60 shots during section play.
Credit: Nick Wosika.
Blake’s lineup once again has no apparent weaknesses, especially with Breck out of the way already. Breck ended the regular season ranked No. 2 in the Class 1A state coaches’ poll, with the Bears (24-2-1) owning the top spot for the season’s entirety.
Blake was also the only team to hand No. 1-AA Edina a loss on the season, beating the Hornets 2-1 on Jan. 27.
Senior forward and Yale commit Lucy Burton leads the team in scoring with 23 goals and 44 points, followed by sophomore Izzy Daniel (16-25-41) and freshman Lily Delianedis (16-23-39). Sophomore defender and Minnesota commit Madeline Wethington is one of the state’s top players on the blue line, and will help protect either sophomore Minnesota-Duluth commit Olivia Bizal or junior Anna Kruesel between the pipes.
Forward tandem Kristin Trosvig (17-17-34) and McKenna Ellingson (22-10-32) pace Alexandria, a team that has already beaten third-seeded Warroad earlier this season. The Cardinals (14-12-1) are rolling in the postseason, having thumped Northern Lakes 11-1 and downing Fergus Falls 3-1 in Section 6-A play.
Senior forward and Ohio State commit Liz Schepers is one of the state’s leading scorers for Mound Westonka, racking up 56 goals and 80 total points. Schepers was impressive during the section playoffs, scoring nine times.
Five of those goals came in the Whitehawks’ quarterfinal victory over Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato.
The Whitehawks (21-6-0) have just two losses in their last 19 games, thanks in large part to the play of senior goaltender and St. Cloud State commit Emma Polusny. Polusny has played in every game this season, recording a save percentage of .940 and five shutouts.
Northfield (19-6-3) has history on its side in this matchup, having beaten the Whitehawks 3-2 on Nov. 15 in the Raiders’ second game of the season. Senior defender Brynn Puppe (24-16-40) pairs with sophomore defender and Bemidji State commit Kate Boland (9-30-39) to give the Raiders a high-scoring duo on the blue line.
Junior goaltender Mallory Tidona will be key for the Raiders, having posted three straight shutouts in section play over Albert Lea, Owatonna and top-seeded Red Wing.