Top-Ranked Minnetonka, No. 3 Duluth East a Step Closer with MSHSL Semifinal Triumphs

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Minnesota High School State Tournament Class AA Semifinals

 

ST. PAUL, MN — The dream semifinal with all four top-ranked teams was not to be after Centennial upset St. Thomas Academy in the quarterfinals, but that was not enough to deter over 22,000 hockey fanatics from trekking to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to catch the Minnesota High School Hockey State Semifinals.

Duluth East Greyhounds 4, Edina Hornets 2

In the most anticipated match-up of the weekend, both the Edina Hornets (27-3) and Duluth East Greyhounds (25-2-3) were riding high after securing victories in the quarterfinals.

Warm-ups are underway between Duluth East and Edina in the Minnesota State Semifinals at Xcel Energy Center. (Jack Kewitsch)

This game would live up to the hype that many had wanted all season with physical play and high-flying offense, and when the final buzzer rang out the scoreboard saw Duluth East silence the Edina, 4-2, in the end.

It initially looked to be a game that was Edina’s to lose as they held strong with every Greyhound check and shot. The Hornets even took the 1-0 lead after Evan Shoemaker went coast-to-coast midway through the first slipping the puck right around Parker Kleive’s pads.

But the Hounds roared back to score the next three goals off a snipe by Garrett Worth who proceeded to set up Ian Mageau for Duluth East’s second goal late in the first.

The Greyhounds extended their lead when Frederick Payne lifted a shot into the offensive zone from the blue line that shot up off Edina goaltender Garrett Mackay’s pads and landed directly behind him to make it 3-1 .

Edina would not stop battling, however, and cut it to 3-2 when Mason Nevers hit a rebound home, but an empty-net goal by Worth sealed the Hornets’ fate.

The Hounds’ physical play dictated the pace which has been an issue for the Hornets in the past as they have fallen in three of the last four semifinals the two storied institutions have locked up.

Duluth East was able to bottle up the speed and skill of “Mr. Hockey candidate Sammy Walker along with the rest of the Hornet squad which was never able to get their feet under them throughout the semifinal bout.

For the Hounds, they move on to their third state championship game since 2011 as they look to win their fourth title and first since 1998 when they take on top-ranked Minnetonka at 7pm at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.

Minnetonka Skippers 6, Centennial Cougars 3

The nightcap provided another stellar game pitting top-seeded Minnetonka Skippers (26-2-2) against the upset-minded Centennial Cougars (20-7-3).

Centennial scores 17 seconds into the game as “That was Easy” chants rain down from the rafters after Hayden Brickner nets the goal. (Jack Kewitsch HockeyClan)

Centennial struck first before doubling its lead to 2-0, but Minnetonka was able to ride their skill and offensive prowess to pull together late in a 6-3 triumph over Centennial in the second stanza of the state semifinals.

Centennial got off to a blistering start, scoring only 17 seconds in when quarterfinal hero Hayden Brickner found the back of the net for the 1-0 lead, and it wasn’t long after Jack Menne made it a two-goal advantage for the Cougars less than five minutes into the first period as chants of “That was Easy” rained down from the student section.

Eerily similar to the Section 2AA Final where Minnetonka outshot their opponent by a massive margin but could never pull away, the Skippers comeback started with a squeaker from Bobby Brink that slipped under Travis Allen’s pads to cut it to 2-1 before Josh Luedtke slotted one on a misdirection to tie it up at two.

With the shots heavily favoring Tonka, 41-13, after two, the Skippers continued to wear down Centennial despite the best of efforts from Allen in between the pipes.

Minnetonka extends its lead to 5-2 with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation. (Jack Kewitsch HockeyClan)

The Skippers were able to finally pull away from the pesky Cougers in the third as Brink snapped the tie with his second of the night before Luedtke and Jack Andes opened up the floodgates to put the Cougars away for good with an empty-netter.

Centennial was able to muster one more goal from Lucas McGregor but one more upset was not in the cards as the Cougars bowed out to he third-place game.

The Skippers’ win propels the Minnetonka to the state championship tomorrow night against Duluth East at 7 pm. Centennial will play Edina in the third-place match-up at 4 pm.

Class A Semifinals

Alexandria Cardinals 6, Hermantown Hawks 1

Orono Spartans 5, Mahtomedi Zephyrs 4 (OT)

Alexandria and Orono will battle for the Minnesota High School Hockey Class A State Championship at 12 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on March 10, 2018.

 

Written by Jack Kewitsch / @JackKewitsch 

Special to HockeyClan

 

Main Image: Xcel Energy Arena explodes as Ian Mageau puts Duluth East ahead, 2-1, in their state semifinal game against Edina on March 9, 2018. (Jack Kewitsch HockeyClan)

 

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