Class AA State Tournament Preview
All Hands on Deck
Skippers return to state for another shot at glory
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
A year ago, after Minnetonka beat Holy Family 3-2 in overtime to win the Section 2AA championship, it was widely assumed that the two would likely meet for a rematch again this year.
And that assumption proved correct, as the top two seeds met last Friday night at Braemar Arena to decide who would advance to the state tournament.
What most did not see coming was a one-sided, 4-0 shutout that put the Skippers back in St. Paul with a chance to win a state championship after a runner-up finish to Andover in 2022.
Unlike last season’s Tonka-Holy Family title game, when shots were 34-30 and an overtime goal by Grace Sadura settled one of the best games of the season, this time there was little doubt in the outcome beyond the first period.
The highly skilled Minnetonka skaters had the Fire doing backwards crossovers all evening. Shots were 32-10 after two and 43-17 for the game.
Minnetonka sophomore forward Lauren Mack has 24 points for the Skippers.
Photo by Arnie Hamel
Ahead 2-0 after two periods, the ice appeared tilted slightly downhill for Tracy Cassano’s Skippers. All three of Minnetonka’s lines swarmed the offensive zone, dominating in puck possession. And were it not for Fire goaltender Sedona Blair, the margin of victory would have been greater.
Now, the Skippers are preparing for a state tournament with the potential for a semifinal quartet as competitive and unpredictable as has been seen in years.
If the four highest seeds win their quarterfinal matches, the semifinals on Friday night will feature the Skippers against Gentry Academy and Edina against Andover, the top four ranked AA teams going into the state tournament.
Each of the “Big Four” teams are capable of winning it all. They are a combined 95-11-2 this season and none of them have been ranked lower than seventh in the Janjet Rankings all season. Of the teams’ combined 11 losses, seven of them have been to each other.
Gentry Academy's Rachel Agerter is one of eleven seniors on this year's team.
Photo by Ge Lee
It would be easy to have watched Minnetonka’s dominant performance and conclude that they are the team to beat this weekend. But the impressive resumes of the other three teams makes choosing a favorite extremely difficult, if not pointless.
Andover is the defending champion and comes in with a full head of steam, having won 17 of their past 18 and surrendering just four goals in their past seven games. And how about this: Andover is 77-4-0 combined in the last three seasons.
Gentry Academy has been equally dominant with just two losses on the season. The Stars essentially haven’t had a close game for over a month, including a decisive 4-1 win over fifth ranked Hill-Murray in the Section 4AA title game.
The Edina Hornets might not be as potent offensively as the other three, but have arguably the best goaltender in state history, Uma Corniea. The Hornets have hung right with the others all season and beat Minnetonka 3-0 on Jan. 14.
Short of any big quarterfinal shockers, the Big Four look destined to meet for what could be an all-time great Friday Night Foursome at the X.
Class AA State Tournament preview
Rosemount Irish 15-11-2 vs. Andover Huskies 25-3-0 (2)
Andover senior forward Isa Goettl is fourth in the state with 44 assists.
The biggest surprise entrant to the tournament is Rosemount, who advanced to state with a 3-2 double overtime win over aspiring Cinderella Cretin-Derham Hall.
Rosemount sophomore leading scorer and overtime hero Sophie Stramel (14-19–33) leads the offense and junior Natalie Kendhammer (2.04 GAA, .915 SV%) has been very good in goal of late. But the Irish have a mountain to climb just to stay close with the powerful Huskies.
The defending champions won the Section 7AA title with a merciless 11-1 rout of Grand Rapids/Greenway. “It was close for a bit and then we got a couple of power play goals and then just kinda put them in quicksand a little bit,” said Andover assistant coach Ronnie Druk.
Ella Boerger (40-33–73) and Isa Goettl (22-44–66) lead the potent offense and four other players average over a point per game. Yet still, Druk and the Huskies see room for improvement. “We’ve got to get a little more hungry in front of the net,” Druk said. “We do score a lot of goals, but there’s always room for improvement on that.”
On the back line junior Cailin Mumm (5-24–29) and sophomore Courtney Little (7-18–25) have two-way talent and lead a formidable defense that allows just over a goal per game. Senior netminder Courtney Stagman (1.11 GAA, .934 SV%) is a shutout machine with 11 this year and 31 in the past three seasons.
“The last few games and playoffs, that’s the best we’ve played all year, which is good,” said Druk. “It’s a good time to start rolling.”
Janjet predicts: Andover 7, Rosemount 1
Lakeville North Panthers 21-7-0 vs. Edina Hornets 21-4-2 (4)
Lakeville North senior defender Isabella Mayer has 16 points for the Panthers.
Photo by Mark Hvidsted
While the Lakeville North Panthers enter their fifth state tournament playing possibly their best hockey of the season, they are a team without a real signature victory. A 5-3 win over Northfield got them into the tournament and that may stand as their best win of ‘22-23.
The Panthers are good in close games with seven one-goal victories. Eighth grade goaltender Kaia Weiland (1.80 GAA, .917 SV%) has been impressive and junior Addison Oettinger (1.90 GAA, .905 SV%) played at state last year with Burnsville. Junior Addie Bowlby (23-25–48), another former Burnsville player, and Gracie Hanson (19-25–44), who has 12 power play assists, lead the offense. Senior defender Isabella Mayer (3-13–16) is the team’s leader from the blueline.
Behind senior goaltender Uma Corniea, the Edina Hornets are trying for their fifth state championship. Photo by Arnie Hamel
Edina enters their thirteenth state tournament having won four state titles and, with all-world senior goaltender Uma Corniea (0.90 GAA, .958 SV%), has a realistic shot at number five. For Corniea, this will be her unprecedented sixth consecutive state tournament. She was the goaltender for Breck as a seventh and eighth grader as the Mustangs won back-to-back Class A titles, and has backstopped the Hornets at state each of the last four seasons.
Junior Hannah Halverson, sophomore Whitney Horton and freshman Lorelai Nelson are 30-point scorers for the Hornets, who dominated top-seeded Blake 4-0 in the Section 6AA championship game.
Janjet predicts: Edina 4, Lakeville North 2
Centennial/Spring Lake Park Cougars 20-6-2 (5) vs. Minnetonka Skippers 25-2-0 (1)
Centennial/SLP senior forward Ella O'Hearn is fourth on the team with 29 points.
Photo by Arnie Hamel
The Cougars pulled the upset in knocking off top seed Maple Grove 2-1 in the Section 5AA championship game. In storybook fashion, it was eighth grader Jaycee Chatleain (7-21–28) scoring the game-winner with just 88 seconds left in the third period, sending the Cougars to their fifth state tournament.
Centennial/SLP will have another upset on their minds as they go up against top-ranked Minnetonka in the opening round. The Cougars’ grand plan is not without some merit. Leading scorer Lauren O’Hara (35-20–55) is a future Gopher with a big, physical presence and the stats to match. Four others, including Chatleain, are point-per-game producers.
Freshman Katie Ball (5-9–14) and senior Hannah Thompson (2-12–14) anchor the back line and junior Kaitlin Groess (1.84 GAA, .929 SV%) is the Cougars’ primary netminder.
Minnetonka senior forward Grace Sadura is second on the Skippers with 39 points.
Photo by Arnie Hamel
For Minnetonka, last year’s runner-up, all the pieces are in place for a championship run this weekend. Offensively, the Skippers have a bevy of well-documented Division I forwards. But for all of the Skippers’ offensive prowess, it has been their defense in at least equal measure that has made them nearly untouchable.
Tonka has given up just three goals in their last nine games, a facet of their game that was on display in their dominating shutout of Holy Family in the 2AA section final. Sophomore netminders Layla Hemp (0.94 GAA, .947 SV%) and Ashlynn Hazlett (0.82 GAA, .931 SV%) have been outstanding, if a bit lonely. Defenders Bella Finnegan, Lauren Goldsworthy and Lauren Karl lead the blueline crew.
Janjet predicts: Minnetonka 4, Centennial/SLP 1
Moorhead Spuds 20-8-0 vs. Gentry Academy Stars 24-2-0 (3)
Gentry Academy senior forward Cara Sajevic leads the Stars with 70 points. Photo by Ge Lee
The Moorhead Spuds come to St. Paul for the fourth time, and for the first time in 16 years. Ryan Kraft’s team has eight losses, all of which are to top-tier competition.
In the 8AA section final against Roseau, Kraft loved his team’s resilience after two Spud goals in the second period were waved off. “We came out in the third period with a 'We will not be denied' attitude and controlled the play the entire period, eventually scoring the game winner with 9 minutes left in the game,” recalled Kraft.
“I don't know many groups that would have been able to handle two disallowed goals and still have the mental toughness to figure out a way to win in that setting. I am so proud of my team for that.”
Among teams at the state tournament, including Class A Warroad, Moorhead is 0-5 this year. So the challenge for the Spuds is to prove they belong with the upper echelon elites. Sophomore goalie Taylor Kressin (2.17 GAA, .903 SV%) will be tested right away against the Stars. Kressin has played in every game and has four shutouts.
Senior forward Bria Holm (24-20–44) is the Spuds leader on offense. “ I am so confused as to why she doesn't have a D1 scholarship yet,” says Kraft.
Senior defender and Bemidji State commit Olivia Dronen (8-18-26) is the team’s leader on the blueline. “She is a two-way defenseman that has tremendous offensive skills,” says Kraft. In addition, junior forward Kate Kosobud (11-23–34) has 11 assists on the power play.
For Gentry Academy, other than a weird 10-7 loss up in Warroad and a 3-2 loss to Proctor/Hermantown, The Stars have been unstoppable. Word is the Gentry bus broke down on the way to Warroad and the team was forced to borrow equipment in order to play the game. This helps explain the single most bizarre box score of the entire girls’ hockey season.
According to head coach Billy Hengen, the highlight of the regular season was an early-season 4-3 win at Andover that ended the Huskies’ 33-game winning streak and four-year unbeaten streak at home.
The star power is undeniable. Senior Cara Sajevic (32-38–70) is a top-tier sniper headed to St. Thomas next year, and classmate Grace Delmonico (31-30–61) averages over two points per game. Goaltender Zoe Laming (1.48 GAA, .909 SV%) is another key senior on a team with eleven of them.
With the team’s nucleus graduating, this is Gentry’s last best shot at a title after coming up short in their first two years of existence.
Janjet predicts: Gentry 5, Moorhead 3
Andover 2, Edina 0
Minnetonka 4, Gentry 2
Andover 4, Minnetonka 3
(Lauren McQuillan contributed to this report.)
|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|