Friday’s Red Wing/Blake rematch in the Class 1A semifinals seemed inevitable when the girls’ state hockey tournament bracket was announced.
But Alexandria gave No. 2-seeded Blake a scare Wednesday in an eventual 3-2 defeat.
“To be candid with you, I think it’s really good for girls’ hockey,” Red Wing coach Scott Haley said. “Those first round games, especially in the state tournament, can get out of hand.”
In six seasons of tournament seeding, the top four teams have advanced to the semifinals 20 of 24 times.
Third-seeded Red Wing cruised past New Ulm 7-2 in Wednesday's quarterfinal, giving the Wingers another shot at Blake, which handed them a 6-3 loss in last year’s semifinals.
The teams also met Dec. 14, with Blake winning that one 5-2.
“We had one of our worst games of the year against Blake, so we’re looking forward to getting another crack at them,” Haley said.
Blake has since lost second-leading scorer Karlie Lund to a broken collarbone, but the rematch will still feature two of the state’s leading scorers in Red Wing’s Nicole Schammel (61 goals) and Blake’s Carly Bullock (47 goals).
And the coaches — Haley and Blake’s Shawn Reid — are former high school teammates from Lakeville.
“That’s a pretty cool thing,” Reid said. “We played three times against each other as coaches, and we’ve been fortunate to win them, but by a very small margin. [Red Wing has] an incredibly powerful team, players that can score at will. It’s going to take a very strong effort to beat them.”
Small Eden Prairie crowd
Andover’s crowd dwarfed Eden Prairie’s on Thursday afternoon.
Explaining the small turnout, Eagles winger Charly Dahlquist said, “Too many wins for Eden Prairie for all sports. They just don’t think it’s important, and it’s a girls’ sport.”
Dahlquist said the weather and a boys’ hockey game scheduled for Thursday also could have affected things. Eden Prairie expects more fans Friday.
“We see that a lot,” Coach Jaime Grossman said. “They’re so used to winning, you don’t see them until the state championship game. So for us, it’s the pressure of getting to that game, so the fans are here to support us.”
Canada’s overtime goal to defeat Team USA came just as Eden Prairie and Andover were getting ready for the second period.
Dahlquist said she and her teammates caught glimpses of the gold medal game on a TV in the hallway leading to the rink. Eden Prairie players knew the result as soon as it happened, but Andover players were unaware what happened until much later.
“The girls were watching during warm-ups a little bit, in the background, but once it came to game time, that’s pretty much all our focus, is just us,” Andover coach Melissa Sailor said. “So we don’t even know the score, if you want to tell us.”