Each season, girls' high school hockey plays its part as one of the first state tournaments to take place during the wild end to the winter prep sports season.
The playoffs begin in earnest on Tuesday this year, and each section features matchups featuring teams with long histories against their section foes and others looking to break through and advance to the state tournament -- some for the first time.
Here are a look at some of the teams competing for a coveted state tournament spot and the opportunity to play at Xcel Energy Center in late February.
This section garners the spotlight in Class 2A with both of last season's defending state champions residing here.
Edina returns as the No. 1 seed in this section and will look to defend its Class 2A state championship. This year, the Hornets will have a number of worthy opponents in their section, including defending Class 1A champion Blake, who moved up a class before the season.
One player leading the charge for the Hornets (22-2-1, 7-1), ranked No. 1 in the Class 2A coaches' poll, is senior forward Loli Fidler. The 2018 Ms. Hockey Award semifinalist had a team-high 36 assists during the regular season, including three in a 5-3 win against No. 9-ranked Wayzata on Dec. 16 -- a win that help propel Edina to the Lake Conference title.
The No. 2-2A Bears (22-1-2, 5-0) look to dethrone the high-flying Hornets and show they can be a threat in Class 2A. The teams met on Jan. 20, with Edina cruising to a 5-2 win.
To make it out of the section, Blake must rely on goaltender Anna Kreusel, who a semifinalist for Senior Goalie of the Year. Kreusel stopped 20 shots in the Bears' loss to the Hornets.
As the No. 3 seed, Wayzata (17-7-1, 5-3) looks to disrupt a possible Blake-Edina rematch in the section final. The Trojans gave the Bears their lone tie of the year, playing to a 1-1 draw on Nov. 30.
Cretin-Derham Hall (12-11-2, 10-5-1) is the No. 4 seed and is also looking to crash the party and make its first state tournament appearance since 2008.
The top three seeds in this section — Centennial, Maple Grove and Blaine — have battled all season in the ultra-competitive Northwest Suburban Conference North Division. Now, they will settle it all in the postseason.
The No. 3-ranked Cougars come into the Section 5 tournament as the No. 1 seed after a strong regular season that featured wins over Blaine and Maple Grove en route to the North Division title -- along with a win over No. 1-2A Edina.
Centennial (21-3-1, 15-0-1) is led by two Ms. Hockey semifinalists, Gabbie Hughes and Anneke Linser. These standouts, who are both committed to Minnesota-Duluth, have combined for 62 goals and 68 assists this season.
The No. 4-ranked Crimson look to dethrone the Cougars and carry their solid run at the regular season into the playoffs. Maple Grove (17-4-4, 9-3-3) has not lost a game since Dec. 12 and has done so behind junior forward Mannon McMahon. The Minnesota-Duluth commit has a team-high 21 goals and 30 assists this season.
The No. 8-2A Bengals enter as the No. 3 seed and the defending section champions. Blaine (16-6-2, 11-4-1) went a combined 1-3 against Centennial and Maple Grove this season and will need big performances from senior goaltender Jaela O'Brien to return to the state tournament. O'Brien, who is a semifinalist for the Senior Goalie of the Year award, posted a 1.60 goals-against average and .923 save percentage this season.
Rogers (14-8-3) is the No. 4 seed and is playing the role of outsider having competed in the Mississippi 8. The Royals lost 7-0 in their lone meeting with Centennial this season and did not play Maple Grove or Blaine.
These East Metro teams will be put to the test as perennial power South St. Paul battles the likes of St. Paul United in a bid to play in the state tournament.
The United, which is ranked No. 5 in the Class 1A coaches' poll, come in as the No. 1 seed and have not lost to a Section 4 foe this season.
Senior forward Samantha Burke, a Cornell commit leads the way for the United (17-9, 1-4) with a team-best 28 goals this season. In the United's lone matchup this season with No. 2 seed South St. Paul on Dec. 5, Burke was held without a goal but did contribute two assists in her team's win.
The No. 7-1A Packers (19-5-2, 6-2-1) come in looking to avenge a loss to No. 3 seed Mahtomedi in last season's section tournament.
South St. Paul goaltender Kaity McKenzie, who was named a semifinalist for the Senior Goalie of the Year award, has 10 shutouts this season, including a 14-save effort in the Packers' 6-0 win against the Zephyrs on Dec. 19.
Mahtomedi (17-8-1, 9-2) comes into the postseason with a Metro East conference championship under its belt. The Zephyrs have found success with Allie Franco. This eighth grade senior forward leads her team with 15 goals and 18 assists this season.
Simley (6-15-2, 3-6-2) comes in as the No. 4 seed. The Spartans have yet to defeat any of the top three seeds in the section this season.
This section features three teams currently ranked in the Class 1A coaches' poll and some fierce rivals who have faced each other on a regular basis over the years.
The No. 1 seed is Warroad, and the No. 1-ranked Warriors (19-3-2, 7-1-1) seem primed to make a third consecutive run to St. Paul.
Warroad's offensive attack is led by freshman forward Genevieve Hendrickson. She had 47 assists during the regular season, which is one of the state's best assist totals this season. The Warriors come in without a loss to a Class 1A school.
Thief River Falls had a brief time at No. 1 in the rankings but landed at No. 5 in the poll dated Jan. 30. The Prowlers (17-6-2, 7-3), however, received section's No. 2 seed and hope the playoff will replicate the start to their season, when they went without a loss in their first 10 games.
Warroad ended Thief River Falls' run with a victory on Dec. 19, and freshman forward Shelby Breiland will be key for a Prowlers team ready to repay the favor. Breiland leads the team with 25 goals this season.
East Grand Forks (17-8-1, 5-5-1) is vying for its first state tournament berth since 2014 behind the prowess of senior goaltender McKenzie Whalen. The semifinalist for the Senior Goaltender of the Year has been a rock for the No. 8-1A Green Wave, and her most impressive outing was a 47-save performance in a 3-3 tie with Warroad on Dec. 19.
Detroit Lakes (8-17, 3-3) is the No. 4 seed and does not have a win against any of the top three teams in Section 8. Senior forward Anna Payne leads the Lakers with a team-best 11 goals this season.
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