Trek to the X becomes a reality

Seven teams fulfilled their early season goal Thursday night by punching their ticket to the state tournament, completing their Trek to the X, but with still more work to do.

Dodge County defeated Simley 5-2 to advance out of Section 1A and could be a team to be reckoned with in St. Paul. They are making they first trip to the state tournament. Willmar avenged a section semifinal loss to River Lakes last season in Section 6A  with a 5-1 win, this year in Section 2A, making their fourth trip to state and first since 2020.

Top-ranked Academy of Holy Angels squeezed past South St. Paul 4-3 in Section 4A. South St. Paul had been to the past two tournaments and the Stars are making their third overall trip and first since 2006.

Two-time reigning state champion Warroad is back in search of completing the trifecta. The Warriors overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Section 8A rival Crookston, 3-2. The Warriors will be making their 15th state tournament appearance, which includes four state titles.

In Class AA Northfield survived a late charge by Lakeville South to win the Section 1A title in their first year of playing Class AA hockey. The state’s top scorer, Ayla Puppe, had two goals to lead the Raiders past the Cougars 4-3. This is Northfield’s fourth trip to state, but first at the AA level.

In 4AA Hill-Murray faced rival Stillwater in a much-anticipated match up that lived up to its billing through two periods with the game deadlocked at 2-2. But the Pioneers scored three unanswered goals for a 5-2 win and their first state trip since 2020.

In Section 7AA Andover reigned supreme with their seventh straight section title, defeating Grand Rapids/Greenway 8-1. They are making their ninth trip to state and were state champs in 2020 and 2022.

There are three more section final games tonight:

Section 2AA: #3 Holy Family vs. #1 Minnetonka (Braemar Arena)

Section 5AA: #1 Centennial/Spring Lake Park vs. #2 Maple Grove (Roseville Arena)

Section 6AA: #1Benilde-St, Margaret’s vs. #2 Edina (Parade Ice Garden)

Here is a rundown of last night’s section final contests:

Section 1A

#1 Dodge County 5, #2 Simley 2

Dodge County punched their ticket to state with a 5-2 Section 1A victory over Simley, earning the first trip to the X in the program’s history.

The Wildcats outshot the Spartans 33-11 and scored three second-period goals to blow the game wide open.

Daisy Harens, an eighth grader, got them on board in the first period, assisted by Alexa Van Straaten. It was Harens’ eight goal on the season. Hannah Peterson put the Wildcats up 2-0 with her 13th goal, assisted by Van Straaten and Kylie Meyer. Just over a minute later Zoe Heimer found the back of the bet with her 10th goal of the season, assisted once again by Van Straaten. Mollie Koch then scored the back breaker for a 4-0 lead with McKenna LaFleur assisting. Koch’s goal was her 16th.

Simley climbed back into contention with a pair of goals in the third. Valerie Duval scored with 3:16 left to play and Taylor Ralston scored with 49 seconds left. But it was too little too late. Dodge County’s Abby Simons added an empty netter for good measure as the Wildcats avenged their section final loss last year to Albert Lea 3-2.

The Wildcats enter the state tournament with a 21-4-0 record.

Section 2A

#2 Willmar 5, #1 River Lakes 1

Sophia Quinn scored twice and Rebecca Dawson had a goal and an assist to help Willmar punch their ticket to state for the first time since 2020. Chloe Lownsbury added two assists for the Cardinals who broke a 1-1 tie after two with four third-period goals.

The Cardinals outshot River Lakes 38-23. Junior Minnesota State commit Kaydence Roeske stopped 33 shots for River Lakes, who finished their season 14-9-2. Willmar will head to state with a 20-7-0 record.

Section 4A

Holy Angels is making their third state tournament appearance. They won the state title in 2005.

#1 Holy Angels 4, #2 South St. Paul 3

The No. 1 team in Class A almost didn’t make it through their section, but hung on to beat a quality South St. Paul squad 4-3. Academy of Holy Angels has shuffled between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranking all season, but held the top spot for several of the final weeks of the regular season.

They lived up to their billing Thursday. Bella LaMere got the Stars off on the right foot midway through the first period with her 22nd goal of the season, assisted by Emelie Anderson and Marci Jung. South St. Paul’s Annie Felton tied it with a power play goal assisted by Eva Beck and Lily Pachl. The Packers took a 2-1 lead early in the second when Alida Ahern scored a power play goal. But Holy Angels came back with a pair of goals before the end of the period for a 3-2 edge. Harper Poehling scored on the power play with Audrey Garton and Taylor Lesnar assisting. Masyn Mullin followed with her 14th goal of the season.

In the third, Anderson scored her 11th goal of the year with Lesnar earning her second assist for a 4-2 lead. But Ahern’s second of the game brought South St. Paul back to within one with her 29th goal of the season, assisted by Bailey Vesper. But they couldn’t get the equalizer as Holy Angels held on for the win, ending South St. Paul’s attempt at their third straight trip to state.

The Stars, meanwhile, will enter the state tourney with a 21-3-3 record with hopes to leaving with the No. 1 ranking intact. South St. Paul finished their season 17-10-0.

Section 8A

The Warriors are seeking their third straight state title.

#1 Warroad 3, #2 Crookston 2

Reigning Class A champion Warroad survived a scare from second-seeded Crookston Thursday by scoring three third-period goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit and win their ninth straight section title.

The win keeps the Lady Warriors hopes of winning a third straight state tile alive.

Crookston defeated Warroad 2-0 earlier in the season and they got off to a fast start with Jocelyn Field scoring just 28 seconds into the game. They finished off the period with a goal by Taylor Field for a 2-0 cushion despite being outshot 14-6.

Crookston netminder Kambelle Freije was equally strong in the second period stopping another 14 shots to secure the 2-0 lead.

But Warroad’s Vivienne Marcowka finally got one past Freije to make it a 2-1 game. Marcowka scored again eight minutes later to tie the game. Marcowka came into the game with just four goals.

A little over a minute later Karlee Kalbrener scored the eventual game winner as Warroad and goalie Payton Rolli held on for the win. Crookston finished their season 17-9-1. Warroad heads to the state tournament with a 19-8-0 mark.

Section 1AA

#1 Northfield 4, #2 Lakeville South 3

Lakeville South overcame a 3-0 deficit with three third-period goals, but Northfield’s Emerson Garlie scored with 51 seconds remaining to lift Northfield to the Section 1A title and into the state tournament.

After a scoreless first period Northfield got a pair of goals form the state’s leading scorer, Ayla Puppe, in the second period in addition to a goal by Lillian Jindra for a 3-0 lead. But the Cougars clawed back. Sophia Kuhns scored at 2:29 of the third period to make it 3-1. Nine minutes later Ella Fowler scored to make it a 3-2 game. With the clock ticking, Lakeville South was on the receiving end of a roughing penalty, giving them a much-needed power play. They converted with two seconds left in the advantage when senior captain Lilly Hunst scored her  11th goal of the season to tie the game 3-3.

But Garlie scored the game winner just under three minutes later with Puppe assisting. Puppe’s three points gives her 110 on the season. Her two goals on the night eclipsed the 60-goal mark to give her 61 for the year and 185 for her career.

Lakeville South finished their season 21-4-3. Northfield improved to 27-1-0.

Section 4AA

Ms. Hockey Semifinalist Chloe Boreen scored twice to lead the Pioneers to a 5-2 win over Stillwater. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

#1 Hill-Murray 5, #2 Stillwater 2

It’s been awhile since the Hill-Murray Pioneers hoisted the section championship trophy in Section 4AA, but on Thursday they were all smiles after a 5-2 win over rival Stillwater in front of a large crowd at Aldrich Arena.

The game featured two Ms. Hockey Semifinalists in Stillwater’s Josie St. Martin and Hill-Murray’s Chloe Boreen.

The Ponies got out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Josephine Lang at the 3:04 mark, assisted by Grace Cheney. It was Lang’s 19th goal of the season and 50th point, great numbers for the blueliner who is committed to Providence.

Hill’s Boreen tied the score five minutes later on a power play, assisted by Emily Pohl and Olivia Braunshausen.  It was Boreen’s 29th tally of the year.

The period ended in a stalemate and stayed 1-1 until 10:30 of the second period when Hill-Murray’s Elliana Englehardt out the Pioneers up 2-1, assisted by Pohl and Addy McLay. But Stillwater tied it in the waning minutes of the period with Brooke Nelson’s 26th goal of the season.

The first six minutes of the third was back-and-forth action as the next goal would prove huge. At 6:16 Hill’s Sophie Olson gave the Pioneers a 3-2 lead, assisted by Boreen and Ella Hornung. Two minutes later they extended their lead when Olivia Braunshausen scored, assisted by Regan Berglund and Maddy Morrell. Boreen then added her 30th goal of the season and second of the night for the 5-2 victory.

It was Hill-Murray’s first section title since 2020. They will be making their ninth trip to the X. They won state titles in 2014 and 2015.

Stillwater finishes their season 18-9-1.

The Pioneers are making their first trip to state since 2020.

Section 7AA

Senior defenseman Merrill Delich was all smiles after an Andover goal in their 8-1 win over Grand Rapids/Greenway. LPH PHOTO BY MIKE THILL

#1 Andover 8, #2 Grand Rapids/Greenway 1

Andover won their seventh consecutive Section 7AA title and will seek their third state championship as they defeated Grand Rapids/Greenway 8-1 Thursday in Roseville.

The Huskies were simply too much for the Lightning, outshooting them 40-9.

Andover got a pair of goals from Hannah Christenson, a goal and three assists from Mackenzie Jones and a goal and two assists from Amelia McQuay. Nora Sauer added a goal and an assist, and Julia Gerdes and Hanna Olson two assists each.

Mercury Bischoff scored the lone goal for the Lightning, her 39th on the season.

Andover will enter the state tournament with a 21-4-3 record. Grand Rapids/Greenway finishes the season at 17-10-1.

Andover returns to state for the seventh straight season.