The girls' hockey state tournament starts Wednesday and kicks off a five-week frenzy of high school sports activity. The first puck drops at 11 a.m. at Xcel Energy Center when Alexandria faces Red Wing in a Class 1A quarterfinal. Here are five things to know:
Minnetonka, the No. 1 seed in Class 2A, could become the first girls' hockey team to win three consecutive state titles. South St. Paul and Warroad have both missed out on a three-peat but the Skippers appear well-suited for the task. Seven Minnetonka players have signed or verbally committed to Division I programs.
The tournament is filled with star players. Forward Dani Cameranesi of Blake and defensemen Paige Haley of Red Wing and Sidney Morin of Minnetonka are among the five finalists for the Ms. Hockey award. In addition, Cameranesi, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, is one of four future Gophers who will play. The others are Haley, Minnetonka defenseman Sydney Baldwin and Eagan forward Megan Wolfe.
Warroad, the No. 1 seed in Class 1A, features senior forward Lisa Marvin, the state's leader with 59 assists. No. 2 seed Red Wing is led by junior forward Nicole Schammel, who tallied 69 goals and 51 assists for a whopping 120 points.
The floor in Class 1A appears to be rising. All eight teams in the field are above .500 for the first time since 2007 when the small-school bracket expanded from four to eight teams.
Four players helped the U.S. Women's Under-18 team win a silver medal at the world championship tournament last month in Finland: Baldwin, Cameranesi, Morin and Wolfe.
DAVID LA VAQUE