Let the games begin!
Section playoffs open in Class 1A, with Warroad looking strong again and a logjam of contenders in Section 5A battling for one spot at state
Monday, February 7, 2022
The ticket to St. Paul will almost certainly come down to Albert Lea (#24) versus Austin (#25), the only two teams in the section with winning records. It's a four-team playoff after Rochester Lourdes and Faribault did not field teams this season. The Tigers and Packers have played twice this year, with Albert Lea winning both times by 3-2 and 5-2 scores.
Albert Lea has 20-goal scorer Morgan Goskeson, a seventh grade defender, leading the offense and sophomore Rachel Doppelhammer (3.94 GAA, .862 SV%) in goal. Austin counters with 31-goal scorer Kate Holtz, a senior and recent Northland College commit. In goal, the Packers have sophomore Kyia Radford-Garcia (3.05 GAA, .881 SV%), who has played in every game.
Section championship, Janjet says: Austin 5, Albert Lea 3
The Mankato East Cougars (#11) have had a stellar season and are heavy favorites in Section 2A. A recent 1-0 win over Class 2A Northfield (#22) was their best win of the year and the Cougars will begin the playoffs having won 13 of their last 14 games.
Neither Litchfield/D-C (#27) nor Minnesota River (#29) has enough defense to stop the Cougars’ high-powered attack, led by McKenzie Keller who has 49 points, and Jess Eykyn with 44. In goal, East features junior Anna Rader (1.81 GAA, .924 SV%), who has posted four shutouts on the season.
Janjet says: Mankato East 7, Litchfield/D-C 2
Luverne's Kamryn Van Batavia, the state's leading scorer with 121 points, wants to carry the Cardinals back to state for the third straight year.
It’s a two-horse race in Section 3A with New Ulm (#9) out in front of Luverne (#12) by a nose. The Eagles seem to have Luverne’s number this year, having beaten the Cardinals twice by decisive, 7-3 and 6-0 scores. These two 20-win teams meeting in the section final is a near certainty. The question is if state leading scorer Kamryn Van Batavia (121 points) and linemate Reghan Bork (82 points) can find their offensive mojo against the stout Eagles’ defense.
New Ulm has offensive assets of their own, starting with senior Julia Helget with 51 points. Classmate Maddi O’Connor is next with 49 points. The Eagles Ava Brennan (1.46 GAA, .923 SV%) is just a freshman but has been stout all season.
Janjet says: Luverne 5, New Ulm 4
South St. Paul defender Lilie Ramirez leads the Packers into the section playoffs. Photo by Mike Lieb
The battle for the 4A crown should be tight and hotly contested. The Simley Spartans (#4) are the favorites, but their rivals from South St. Paul (#10) are not to be overlooked. The two teams split a pair of close regular season games and both teams appear to be peaking at the right time. Simley is unbeaten (10-0-2) since the Packers beat them on Dec. 23, and Dave Palmquist’s Packers are 4-1-1 since Simley paid them back on Jan. 14.
The Spartans do it with defense and balanced scoring. They have ten players with at least ten points, and a team GAA of 1.48. The Packers are led by Lilie Ramirez (36 points), a senior defender headed to MSU-Mankato next year.
Mark down Two Rivers/St. Paul (#16) as the section darkhorse. The Riveters have a win and tie against SSP and are 9-4-1 in their last 14 games, led by senior goaltender Ella Graham (2.65 GAA, .900 SV%). Chisago Lakes (#17) cannot be overlooked despite an inconsistent regular season (11-13-1). With senior UMD commits Dani Burgen (61 points) and Dani Brunette (44), Chi-town remains dangerous.
Janjet says: South St. Paul 3, Simley 2 (OT)
Iyla Ryskamp and the Orono Spartans are playing for the school's first trip to the state tournament. Photo by Arnie Hamel
Section 5A has three teams that have had state tournament-worthy seasons, yet there is but one open seat on the bus to downtown St. Paul. Orono (#2), Holy Angels (#5) and Mound Westonka (#6) have combined for 61 victories this season, and all three have legitimate state championship aspirations, if only they can get to the final eight. As the top seed, Orono should end up in the section final against either the Stars or the White Hawks.
The Spartans are trying to make their first-ever appearance at the state tournament, led by sensational center Iyla Ryskamp, who just surpassed 200 career points. Junior goaltender Celia Dahl (1.68 GAA, .918 SV%) is having another excellent season for the Spartans.
Holy Angels’ top line of Ella Clow, Bella LaMere and Audrey Garton has combined for 139 points in leading the Stars to a 20-win season. Senior goalie Celeste Rimstad (1.57 GAA, .919 SV%) has eight shutouts. Two of the Stars four losses this season are to Orono (3-1, 6-4).
Mound Westonka is led by Sydney Leonard (43 points) and Gretta Pioska (43) and the White Hawks have six players with at least 20 points. Senior Ashlyn Roth is in goal (2.25 GAA, .903 SV%).
Janjet says: Orono 5, Mound Westonka 3
The eighth-ranked Fergus Falls Otters have yet to lose to a Class 1A team this season. Photo by Melissa Johnson Babolian
It should be a competitive affair in 6A, with four teams playing well enough to make a run to state. The Fergus Falls Otters (#8) lead the pack, with an 18-4-2 mark. The Otters are powered by 50-point scorers Piper Andrews and Maddie Hulter, and backstopped by sophomore goaltender Ana Jyrkas (2.18 GAA, .900 SV%).
Defending section champs River Lakes (#18) is playing their best hockey of the season of late, going 8-3-0 to end the regular season. MSU-Mankato commit Kianna Roeske (45 points) and Sophia Hess (44) lead the offense for the Stars and Kaydence Roeske (2.26 GAA, .930 SV%) is between the pipes.
Also in the mix is Northern Lakes (#19) and Willmar (#22), both capable of springing an upset.
Janjet says: Fergus Falls 4, River Lakes 3
Proctor/Hermantown's Ember Kehtel and the Mirage are ready to crash the 7A playoffs. Photo by Hope Carlson
In January, it looked like defending state champions Proctor/Hermantown (#3) would be a sure bet to return to the state tournament to defend their title. But the steady emergence of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton (#7) has made this section far more uncertain.
With Duluth Marshall (#13) and Moose Lake (#15) having strong seasons, the 7A winner is suddenly one of the least predictable races in Class 1A.
The Lumberjills are riding a huge wave of momentum behind the near flawless goaltending of Araya Kaminski (1.24 GAA, .924 SV%) and an extremely strong defense. Cloquet has won 11 straight, seven by shutout, and have allowed just four goals since a 2-1 loss to Duluth Marshall on Jan. 4. Up front, Marina Dostal and Dana Jones both have 30 points.
The defending state champion Mirage started slowly (2-3-1) but have proven they are one of the top teams in either class. The Mirage gave 2A powers Edina and Andover tough tests and enter sections on a roll. Nya Sieger (41 points) and Izy Fairchild (38) lead the offense and Abby Pajari (1.41 GAA, .943 SV%) brings state tournament experience in goal.
Janjet says: Proctor/Hermantown 2, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 1 (OT)
Warroad's powerful pair: Kate Johnson and Talya Hendrickson. Photo by Arnie Hamel
The Crookston Pirates (#14) have put together a nice season and have won 9 of their last 11 games to enter the playoffs with some momentum. The Pirates have five players with at least 11 goals, led by sophomore Reese Swanson with 18.
But that will not be enough to get in the way of the freight train coming down to St. Paul from Warroad. It will take a near ‘Miracle on Ice’ to prevent the Warroad Warriors from being the Section 8A champions. The Warriors beat the Pirates 9-1 back in December, and though Crookston has had a solid second half, the Warriors have a bit too much depth and skill.
With juniors Taiya Hendrickson (75 points) and Kate Johnson (70), Warroad has as good a pair of forwards as any team in the state. Hendrickson has 47 assists and Johnson has 38 goals for the Warriors, who have scored at least six goals in half of their games. In goal is senior Kendra Nordick (1.19 GAA, .936 SV%) who has seven shutouts this season.
Janjet says: Warroad 6, Crookston 2
|8.||Centennial / SLP||7.800|
|10.||Benilde - St. Margaret's||7.704|
|3.||South St. Paul||7.533|
|5.||Proctor / Hermantown||7.433|
|6.||Mound Westonka / SWC||7.111|