The race is on as 63 teams in Classs AA girls hockey will whittle down to eight representatives at the coveted state tournament, Feb. 21-24 at the Xcel Energy Center.

THE RACE IS ON

by Bryan Zollman, Let’s Play Hockey

The final regular season rankings are in as teams dive into section playoffs this week. Just one team will go on a season-ending win streak over the next three weeks and claim the state title.

There are several teams riding current win streaks who hope to keep it going through sections.

Top-ranked Minnetonka has won their last eight games and have outscored opponents 38-7 during those games. They will head into Section 2AA play as the heavy favorites.

Centennial/Spring Lake Park jumps to No. 6 in this week’s rankings and is currently riding a 17-game win streak. They are the top seed in Section 5AA as they impoved to 22-1-2 with a pair of wins last week.

No. 4 Benilde-St. Margaret’s is riding a 9-game win streak and improved to 20-3-1 with three wins last week. They are the top seed in Section 6AA. The top seed in Section 8AA is Moorhead. The Spuds are also on a streak of late, winning their past 12 games and are 20-1 in their past 21 games, the lone loss coming to top-ranked Minnetonka.

LPH Rankings

Presented by Tradition Companies

TeamSectionRecordLast Week
1. Minnetonka2AA22-2-11
2. Hill-Murray4AA21-3-02
3. Andover7AA18-4-34
4. Benilde-St. Margaret’s6AA20-3-16
5. Edina6AA18-6-13
6. Centennial/Spring Lake Park5AA22-1-28
7. Moorhead8AA22-2-19
8. Northfield1AA24-1-05
9. Lakeville North3AA21-3-17
10. Maple Grove5AA17-7-111
11. Stillwater4AA16-8-112
12. Lakeville South1AA19-3-310
13. Woodbury4AA19-4-213
14. Holy Family2AA14-10-117
15. Roseville/Mahtomedi5AA17-8-016
16. Champlin Park/Coon Rapids5AA15-8-214
17. Eden Prairie2AA12-12-115
18. Grand Rapids/Greenway7AA15-9-118
19. Cretin-Derham Hall3AA14-11-019
20. Apple Valley3AA14-9-220

Here is a closer look at the Section-By-Section breakdown along with this week’s final regular season rankings.

Section 1AA

Ayla Puppe leads the state in scoring ad leads Northfield into section play. PHOTO BY BREAKDOWN SPORTS

Puppe and company look to blast through section

This appears to be a three-team race, but don’t be surprised if Mankato East and/or Owatonna play spoilers. East finished with 16 wins and Owatonna 13. But the clear front runners are Northfield and Lakeville South. Northfield has the state’s highest goal scorer in the state with Ayla Puppe (58-44-102) and Lakeville South has one of the top goalies in the state in Claire Bronson (0.97 GAA/.960 SV%). Will Northfield’s high-powered offense be enough to skate through the rest of the field? Or will the defensive game win out? Also, don’t count out Farmington, who split with Lakeville South during the season, winning 4-3 early in the year with Lakeville South winning 4-0 later in the season.

Section 1AA
1. Northfield (8)24-1-0
2. Lakeville South (12)19-3-3
3. Farmington16-8-1
4. Mankato East16-8-1
5. Owatonna13-11-1
6. Rochester Mayo10-11-2
7. Rochester Century/John Marshall8-16-0
8. Austin1-20-1
Lakeville South’s Claire Bronson has a 0.97 goals against average and a save percentage of .960 as the Cougars head into section play. LPH PHOYTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

 

Section 2AA

Whoever faces off against Minnetonka will have their hands full as the Skippers enter section play as the top ranked team in the state. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Top-ranked Skippers eye return to state

Top-ranked Minnetonka is the clear front runner and it will be difficult to overcome their talented and deep roster. But Eden Prairie and Prior Lake both have strong senior goaltenders, and Holy Family is a team used to playing in big games and plays a tough schedule and has an excellent sophomore goaltender. .

Minnetonka counters, however, with two very strong goalies in Ashlyn Hazlett and Layla Hemp. Hemp recently played for Team USA along with teammates Lauren Goldsworthy and Kendra Distad. The Skippers have been No. 1 for much of the year, sometimes switching spots with Hill-Murray. Last year the Skippers lost to eventual champion Gentry Academy in the semifinals so have a lot to prove this season heading into sections as a favorite not just return to state, but one of the teams pegged to win it all.

 

Section 2AA
1. Minnetonka (1)22-2-1
2. Eden Prairie (17)12-12-1
3. Holy Family (14)14-10-1
4. Prior Lake12-12-1
5. Shakopee8-17-0
6. Waconia10-14-1
7. Chaska/Chanhassen5-16-3
8. New Prague3-20-2

 

Section 3AA

Addie Bowlby has 41 goals and 60 points for Lakeville North as they enter section playoffs this week. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Lakeville North front runner in 3AA

Lakeville North has put together a very strong season and hope to return to state after suffering a first round loss to Edina last season.

They are led by Addie Bowlby who is one of just four players to reach the 40-goal mark this season. She enters section play with 41, and is supported by a strong cast and a pair of goalies, Kaia Weiland, Addie Oettinger, who have split time and have a combined save percentage of .923.

Lakeville North is new to Section 3 and will have to compete with the likes of Cretin-Derham Hall, Apple Valley and Rosemount. Rosemount was the section winner last year. Cretin-Derham Hall lost 3-1 to Lakeville North during the season in a close contest. Apple Valley also played the Panthers tough to a 3-2 loss and Rosemount lost to them 4-3. The Panthers also beat Apple Valley 5-2 and Rosemount  5-2 later in the season.

Section 3AA
1. Lakeville North (9)21-3-1
2. Cretin-Derham Hall (19)14-11-0
3. Apple Valley (20)14-9-2
4. Rosemount11-9-5
5. Hastings13-12-10
6. Eastview12-12-1
7. Park/Cottage Grove8-16-1
8. Eagan4-21-0

 

Section 4AA

One of the best rivalries in girls hockey is Hill-Murray and Stillwater and the two could clash in the section final if they both get past their first and second round opponents. Section 4AA is also home to defending champion Gentry Academy. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Pioneers, Ponies and others look to unseat Gentry

Last season Gentry Academy emerged from a competitive Section 4AA and went on to win the state championship. This year it will likely be a different representative of Section 4AA heading to the X. The question is what team will it be and is it a team that can bring a state title home for Section 4AA for the second year in a row.

Hill-Murray got off to a great start and has a deep roster with a strong goalie in Grace Zahn. Stillwater counters with Josie St. Martin who led Team USA to a championship at the U18 International competition. Stillwater, like the Pioneers, are also deep and have strong goaltending.

Woodbury broke their school record for wins and have a talented roster and White Bear Lake would likely be a higher seed if not for being in such a competitive section.

The Pioneers haven’t won a section title since 2020. Stillwater won in 2021 and White Bear Lake won in 2019.

Who will represent Section 4AA this season? The final four should present some very good section hockey with the final game calling for a full house to see what team emerges.

 

Section 4AA
1.Hill-Murray (2)21-3-0
2. Stillwater (11)16-8-1
3. Woodbury (13)19-4-2
4. White Bear Lake14-10-1
5. Gentry Academy7-17-1
6. East Ridge6-19-0
7. North/Tartan8-16-0
8. St. Paul Highland Park8-14-3

 

Woodbury broke the school record for wins with 19. Will they have enough firepower to overcome the likes of Stillwater, Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake? LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Section 5AA

Grace Laager is just a freshman but has put up 42 points this season to lead Centennial/Spring Lake Park into section play. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Cougars on the prowl for second straight section title

Defending section champion Centennial/Spring Lake Park looks to return to the state tournament after suffering a quarterfinal loss a year ago to Minnetonka 3-2.

The Cougars and Maple Grove have won the past six section titles and it’s looking like it might be one of the two winning again this season, although Champlin Park/Coon Rapids has put together a strong season and Roseville/Mahtomedi has had a late surge to win 17 games on the season.

The Cougars have one of the top freshmen in the state in Grace Laager who leads a potent offense. Kaitlin Groess, who recently committed to Bemidji State University, has been outstanding in goal and leads the state with a .962 save percentage.

Maple Grove counters with Bella Shipley who has 21 goals and 43 points and Dani Strom in goal. Strom is in her third year as the team’s starter and has a .946 save percentage. She is signed on to play with the University of St. Thomas.

It could come down to a battle of the goaltenders and who makes the key saves when needed most.

Section 5AA
1. Centennial/Spring Lake Park (6)22-1-2
2. Maple Grove (10)17-7-1
3. Champlin Park/Coon Rapids (15)15-8-2
4. Roseville/Mahtomedi(16)17-8-0
5. North Wright County11-14-0
6. Rogers10-15-0
7. Osseo/Park Center8-16-1
8. Mounds View/Irondale8-16-1

Section 6AA

Hannah Halverson leads Edina into the Section 6AA playoffs where they will look to get back to the state tournament. Last season they lost to Andover in the semifinals. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Red Knights look to dethrone Edina

Edina hasn’t lost a section final game in what seems like forever. Their last state tournament title was 2021 after they won three straight from 2017-2019.

But this year they enter section play as the No. 2 seed behind Benilde-St. Margaret’s who entered Tuesday Night 20-3-1 (they play Hill-Murray tonight). The Red Knights are averaging 5 goals per game and allowing 1.71. They defeated Edina 5-2 on Dec. 5. and have won their last nine games. Their only losses have come to Andover (twice) and Northfield.

They have four players (Bailey Gray, Talla Hanson, Ellie Stewart and Kendall Hassler) averaging a point a game and have a strong defensive unit led by Ella Pasqua and Lulu Ricinski two good goalies who split time in Demetra Walsma and Elie Hancock..

Edina may not be as deep as in years past, but as always, have skilled players throughout their roster led by senior Hannah Halverson who has 21 goals and 22 assists. Reese McConnell and Nora Hannah are both solid goaltenders with Hannan recently competing with Team USA at the U18 World Championships.

There is quite a bit of separation between Edina and Benilde from the rest of the pack, making this a two-team race to the finish line unless an epic upset were to occur. A B-SM/Edina section final will be a fun one and whoever does get through to state will have a chance to compete for a state title.

Section 6AA
1. Benilde-St. Margaret’s(4)20-3-1
2. Edina(5)18-6-1
3. Wayzata6-17-2
4. Robbinsdale Armstrong/Cooper9-14-2
5. Bloomington Jefferson8-16-1
6. Metro-South4-20-1
7.Hopkins/Park7-15-2
Benilde-St. Margaret’s Ellie Stewart is one of four Red Knight players averaging a point a game. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

 

Section 7AA

Andover has their eyes set on their seventh straight section title. Above, Nora Sauer hopes to lead the Huskies back to state to avenge their championship game loss to Gentry Academy last year. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Huskies still team to beat in 7AA

Just like it has been for the past seven seasons, this is Andover’s section.

The Huskies have won seven straight section titles, which led to two state championships (2020, 2022) and almost a third last season when they lost to Gentry Academy in the finals.

Their roster is typical for a Huskies team in that it is deep and skilled.,

Grand Rapids/Greenway could contest the Huskies with one of the top juniors in the state in Mercury Bischoff. Anoka’s Gretchen Paaverud has shown she can shut teams down between the pipes, and Forest Lake also has strong goaltending and a young team who will gain section experience this year and look to be more of a contender next year and in 2026.

Blaine, with 11 wins, can’t be discounted either, but anyone defeating Andover in Section 7AA would be a major upset.

Section 7AA
1. Andover (3)18-4-3
2. Grand Rapids/Greenway (18)15-9-1
3. Blaine10-11-4
4. Anoka10-13-2
5. Forest Lake11-13-1
6. Elk River/Zimmerman7-17-1
7. Northern Tier16-8-1
8. Duluth Northern9-15-1

 

Mercury Bischoff leads the Lightning into sections with 37 goals and 57 points. LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

Section 8AA

Katie Kosobud leads a talented roster of Spuds into section play with hopes of getting to state. PHOTO BY BREAKDOWN SPORTS MEDIA

Moorhead looks to carry impressive regular season through sections

Moorhead has very quietly put together one of the more impressive seasons in all of high school hockey. Because they are a northern team and play out of the metro spotlight, they perhaps don’t get the attention they deserve.

Perhaps that will motivate them through sections and into the state tournament where a deep and talented roster could compete for a state title.

Olivia Kortan, Kate Kosobud, Ella Holm and Taylor Bruekse are the big four for the Spuds. Kosobud is committed to Minnesota and Brueske to Quinnipiac. Holm has 34 points and Kortan leads the team with 51 points.

The Spuds have 14 players who have scored at least two goals this season, including eight with seven or more. Taylor Kressin has also been solid in goal with a .937 save percentage.

No. 2 seed Roseau has won 15 games and is coming off a 7-4 win over No. 4 seed Alexandria. They have won four straight with their last loss coming in a 3-2 game against Moorhead. The Spuds also defeated the Rams 5-1 on Dec. 12.

Section 8AA
1. Moorhead (7)22-2-1
2. Roseau15-10-0
3. Brainerd14-10-1
4. Alexandria13-11-1
5. Bemidji15-10-0
6. St. Cloud7-17-1
7. Sartell/Sauk Rapids4-20-1
8. Buffalo3-17-5