The Minnesota State Playoffs commence this week and it appears as though the competition between the top four seeds in Class 2A, Section 6 will be unlike any other in recent tournament history.
Top seed Eden Prairie is followed by Wayzata and Benilde-St. Margaret's. Rounding out this collection of top-10 teams is defending section champion Minnetonka. If both teams advance, the semifinal showdown of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka will be a rematch of last season's section final.
All four teams boast some of the state's top players. In Eden Prairie, it's Mr. Hockey candidate Kyle Rau and defenseman Nick Seeler. In Wayzata, it is Mr. Hockey candidate Tony Cameranesi and Mario Lucia, the top-rated scholastic player on the board heading into the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.
Lucia enters the tournament with 25 goals, 47 points and a plus-26 rating in 24 games.
Benilde-St. Margaret's will count on a deep group of forwards and Wisconsin-bound defenseman Patrick Daly. Two-way forward Thomas Schutt will provide Minnetonka grit and experience.
"We know the ups and downs of these games," Minnetonka coach Brian Urick told the Star-Tribune. "We were the No. 1 seed last year, but none of our games were easy. Coming in No. 4 is nice because I think the higher-seeded teams tend to grip their sticks a little tighter."
Here's the bracket for Class 2A, Section 6: Click here.
Only two Class 2A sections have defending champions that earned No. 1 seeds: reigning state champion Edina (Section 2) and Hill-Murray (4). Both teams have injury concerns. Senior defenseman Max Everson of Edina should return from a wrist injury, and Hill-Murray sophomore Zach LaValle (leg) hopes to return to the second line and top power-play unit. Everson, by the way, is rated No. 81 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report.