It’s Tourney Time!

8 teams battle for high school hockey’s grand prize

One hundred and sixty players who began their season with the hope of spending the last week of February in downtown St. Paul are living out their dream. Eight teams have infiltrated the hardscrabble streets of downtown St. Paul, hockey bags slung over their shoulder, sticks in their hands, and eyes as big as hockey pucks as they converge on the spectacle that is the Xcel Energy Center, a place where they will share the same ice as Kirill Kaprizov.

Over the next several days there will be favorites, underdogs, Ms. Hockey finalists, Jori Jones finalists, highlight reel moves, bone rattling collisions, cinematic saves, and countless celebrations. But at the end of it all only one team will be able to call themselves “champion.”

Here are the eight teams who will vie for the coveted title to bestow upon themselves, not just in 2024, but for a long, long time. That’s because if you win a state high school title in Minnesota, you are forever considered a champion.

Northfield Raiders (27-1-0)

LPH Final Ranking: 5

Ayla Puppe led the state in scoring with 110 points and led the Raiders to a 27-1 record. Can she lead them to the title game?

Goals Scored: 185

Goals Against: 40

Power Play: 40.8%

Penalty Kill: 84.6%

Goal Leader: Ayla Puppe 61

Assist Leader: Ayla Puppe 49

Points Leader: Ayla Puppe 110

Northfield has a date set in St. Paul after taking down Lakeville South in the Section 1AA championship. The Raiders fell just short a season ago when they lost to Lakeville North in the section title game. Northfield is older, more experienced, and with the talent they have they hope to make a run in “The Tourney.” 

After 80 points as a Junior, Ayla Puppe topped that with a state-leading 110 points. The Ms. Hockey Finalist was the only player to reach the 100-point mark this year in girls’ hockey. Puppe’s incredible season may have overshadowed some other top scorers on the Raiders. 

Sophomore Mia Miller was the top defensive scorer in the state with 21-47-68. Miller, along with Grace McCoshen, who scored 19-29-48 have been one of the best defensive duos in the State of Hockey this season. 

The Raiders have three top-10 scorers on their roster, with Puppe, Miller, and Emerson Garlie, but they also have three more with over 20 points. Northfield not only has some top scorers, but they have great depth up and down the roster. They also have a goalie who minimizes chances for the other team. Macy Mueller went 27-1-0 this year and sports a 1.42 GAA, .937 save percentage, and has 10 shutouts. The Raiders have all the ingredients for a deep tourney run, all they have to do now is put it all together. 

Northfield’s lone loss came against Section 1A champion Dodge County on Jan. 30. The Raiders swept all other Class AA teams they faced, with their most signature win coming against No. 4AA Benilde-St. Margaret’s 4-3 on Jan. 9. 

Northfield has a tough matchup to begin their trip in St. Paul, as they will face Edina on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Minnetonka Skippers (25-2-1)

Minnetonka finished fourth in last year’s tourney, but return as the top-ranked team in the state and poised to make a title run. Two of their top players include Kendra Distad (14) and Lauren Goldsworthy. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

LPH Final Ranking: 1

Goals Scored: 149

Goals Against: 26

Power Play: 38.7%

Penalty Kill: 90.8%

Goal Leader: Lindzi Avar 22

Assist Leader: Lauren Mack 31

Lindzi Avar, a Ms. Hockey Finalist, leads the Skippers with 52 points.

Points Leader: Lindzi Avar 52

Minnetonka makes another trip to the state tournament after taking down Holy Family in the section championship for the second consecutive year. 

The Skippers were a game shy of the state title game a season ago when they lost to Gentry Academy in the semifinal round. Minnetonka lost some top scorers from last year’s third-place team, but this year’s upperclassmen have stepped up nicely. 

Lindzi Avar is enjoying a senior season where she is a Ms. Hockey finalist with 22-30-52, leading the Skippers to a great season. Not too far behind Avar is junior forward Lauren Mack, who has scored 19-31-5. 

The Skippers have great depth with each forward line being a threat to score every time they hit the ice. Not only can their forwards score, but they have a defensive unit that has two players scoring well over 20 points. Lauren Goldsworthy has scored 11-27-38 and Bella Finnegan scored 12-14-26 on the blue line. 

Another duo that has dominated this year was in the crease. Juniors Ashlyn Hazlett and Layla Hemp, both committed to division one schools (Hazlett – Bemidji State), (Hemp – Minnesota). Hemp was a part of the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team that took Gold in mid-January, so she missed a couple of games in the season, but lucky for the Skippers they had Hazlett minding the net. Hazlett went 14-1-0 during the season and has a 0.83 goals against average, .945 save percentage, and seven shutouts. Hemp went 10-1-1, had a 1.12 goals against average, .953 save percentage, and five shutouts. 

The Skippers went undefeated in their section this season and only played AA opponents. Their two losses on the year were Hill-Murray and Edina, both of which came midway through the year. Maple Grove will be the Skippers’ opening opponent at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday evening. Minnetonka defeated the Crimson 4-1 on Nov. 28.

Rosemount Irish (14-9-5)

The Irish were the No. 4 seed in Section 3AA, but that didn’t stop them from earning their second consecutive trip to state. PHOTO: X/@RHSGirlsHockey2

LPH Final Ranking: N/A

Goals Scored: 96

Goals Against: 60

Power Play: 29.6%

Penalty Kill: 85.7%

Goal Leader: Annalee Holzer 24

Assist Leader: Zoe Juncker 24

Points Leader: Annalee Holzer 40 

Section 3AA was the tournament of upsets this year. Rosemount made the most noise, taking down top-seeded Lakeville North in the semifinals and then winnning the section title with a demanding 6-1 win over Apple Valley. 

The Irish have silenced doubters and raised some eyebrows en route to another trip to the X.

Rosemount has a good group of forwards up front starting with Annalee Holzer. The freshman was one of the top scorers on last year’s state tournament team, and this season is the Irish’s top-scoring player. She has 24 goals and 40 points, including 10 power play goals. Right behind Holzer are three forwards who scored more than 30 points: Cece Hanson, Sophie Stramel and Aubrey Hansen. They also are strong between the pipes with Natalie Kendhammer who went 9-4-5 and has a 1.88 goals against average, and .931 save percentage. 

The Irish finished the season with a unique last five games, going 1-1-3, tying Apple Valley, Prior Lake, and Farmington. They got revenge on Lakeville North who beat them on Jan. 24 5-2, but the Irish got the last laugh, taking them down in the section title game. 

Hill-Murray Pioneers (24-3-1)

The Pioneers are back to state for the first time since 2020. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

LPH Final Ranking: 2

Goals Scored: 138

Chloe Boreen leads the Pioneers with 55 points.

Goals Against: 36

Power Play: 24%

Penalty Kill: 85.2%

Goal Leader: Chloe Boreen 30

Assist Leader: Chloe Boreen 25

Points Leader: Chloe Boreen 55

Hill-Murray get back to the state tournament a year after falling in the section championship to Gentry Academy. The Pioneers improved their maturity this season after being a young team last season and looks to make some noise in St. Paul.  

Chloe Boreen has led the Pioneers in points in back-to-back seasons, scoring 62 last season and now scoring 30-25-55. She was a semi-finalist for the Ms. Hockey award. Freshman Emily Pohl enjoyed a 20-goal and 20-assist year and will be a player to watch not only in St. Paul this week, but for years to come. Another award finalist on this Pioneers squad is Senior Goaltender Grace Zhan. Zhan is a finalist for the Jori Jones Award with a .947 save percentage, 1.34 GAA, and a 22-3-1 record. 

Hill-Murray started their season winning 12 straight and taking down Edina, Stillwater, Minnetonka, and Andover in the process. That set the standard for the Pioneers, and they didn’t disappoint the rest of the campaign. Their three losses came from powerhouses they beat before their meeting, losing to Lakeville North, Minnetonka and Andover. Hill-Murray is on a roll and they don’t look like stopping anytime soon. 

Maple Grove Crimson (20-7-1)

Maple Grove came back from a 3-goal deficit against Centennial/Spring Lake Park to earn a trip to state. LPH PHOTO BY MIKE THILL

LPH Final Ranking: 10

Goals Scored: 92

Goals Against: 38

Power Play: 23.8%

Penalty Kill: 87.5%

Goal Leader: Bella Shipley 28

Assist Leader: Kelsey Olson 29

Points Leader: Bella Shipley 54

Maple Grove got their revenge on Centennial/Spring Lake Park, taking them down in the Section 5AA championship and advancing to the state tourney. Centennial/SLP took down Maple Grove in last year’s section title game. 

The Crimson are led by their captain and MVP in net Dani Strom. Strom has been a rock all year long stopping 552 shots. She sports a 19-7-0 record, 1.38 goals against average, .942 save percentage, and has eight shutouts. Obviously Strom isn’t scoring goals, but Bella Shipley has done plenty of that, scoring 28 this year. She also has 26 assists for 54 total points, good enough to be a semifinalist for Ms. Hockey. 

Maple Grove brings a team with good depth with five players with double-digit point totals, four of them have double-digit goal marks. Their blue line includes two players with 10 goals ­-  Grace Erickson and Maddie Elfstrand. The Crimson are bringing a physical and speedy team to St. Paul, but will it be enough for a deep run?

Maple Grove averaged just over three goals per game at 3.29 and allowed 1.39. In the playoffs, they outscored opponents 23-5.

Edina Hornets (21-6-1)

Edina is back for more after finishing third a year ago.  Above, Libby Moe fires a shot past teammate Hannah Halverson. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

 

Senior D Taylor Porthan

LPH Final Ranking: 5

Goals Scored: 116

Goals Against: 35

Power Play: 24%

Penalty Kill: 91.8%

Goal Leader: Hannah Halverson 26

Assist Leader: Lorelai Nelson 25

Points Leader: Hannah Halverson 50

In potentially the game of the year, Edina squeezed by Benilde-St. Margaret’s 5-4 in the Section 6AA championship. Edina makes another trip to the state tourney, they have won the third-place trophy in their past three trips to St. Paul, a stat they want to change this year. 

Edina is getting great production from their forwards, led by Hannah Halverson, who has scored 26-24-50. The forward depth continues with Lorelai Nelson who has scored 13-25-38, Whitney Horton, scoring 19-17-36, and Cate McCoy who has 13-16-29. 

The Hornets have gotten great production from their blue line, as they’ve got five defenders with double-digit point totals. Edina also has a great duo in net with Nora Hannah and Reese McConnell. McConnell has slightly more minutes played and she sports a 0.91 goals against average, .932 save percentage, and has seven shutouts. Hannan has a 1.50 goals against average, .919 save percentage, and has four shutouts. 

Edina was able to split a season series with rival Minnetonka, winning their first matchup and losing their second. The Hornets’ other notable wins on the year came on Jan. 25 when they shut out Andover 3-0. The Hornets are set to face Ayla Puppe and Northfield for an opening-round matchup inside the Xcel Energy Center. 

Andover Huskies (21-4-3)

The Huskies are no stranger to the state tournament. They dropped the title game last season to Gentry Academy and look to get back to the final contest again this year. LPH PHOTO BY MIKE THILL

LPH Final Ranking: 3

Goals Scored: 132

Goals Against: 32

Power Play: 25.6%

Penalty Kill: 88.1%

Goal Leader: Mackenzie Jones 17

Assist Leader: Mackenzie Jones 27

Points Leader: Mackenzie Jones 44

Andover returns to the Xcel Energy Center a year after falling in the state championship game against Gentry Academy. The Huskies look to get back to the title game, but this time hoist the trophy again. 

The Huskies graduated 2023 Ms. Hockey Award winner Ella  Boerger, but brought back Mackenzie Jones who led the team with 17-27-44. Andover’s biggest strength this year is its depth. They have 13 players who have scored double-digit points, and 10 of those players have over 20 points. Andover also is strong in net as Clairebella Hills has had an excellent sophomore season. Hills sports a 18-4-2 record, 1.19 goals against average, .923 save percentage and nine shutouts. 

Andover started their season with a 4-1 win against Benilde-St. Margaret’s but tied Moorhead and lost to Minnetonka the following two games. The Huskies recovered well after those two games going without a loss for a month. The Huskies will head into the Xcel Energy Center winning nine of their last 10 games. 

Roseau Rams (18-10-0)

The Rams made an improbable comeback in the section final against Moorhead to advance to the state tourney. PHOTO: X/@RHSGirlsHockey

LPH Final Ranking: N/A

Goals Scored: 105

Goals Against: 78

Power Play: 26.7%

Penalty Kill: 82.5%

Goal Leader: Payton Remick 25

Assist Leader: Jasmine Hovda 36

Points Leader: Jasmine Hovda 59

Roseau got their revenge on Moorhead after the Spuds took out the Rams in the 2023 section title game. The Rams advance to the State Tournament with one thing in mind, and that is to keep the upsets rolling.

Roseau has not been shy about scoring this season, netting nearly four goals per game. They have great scoring depth, and it starts with Jasmine Hovda who has scored 23-36-59, and Payton Remick (25-21-46). They have five other players who have scored double-digit points, including three more with over 20 points. Summer Byfuglien led the Rams’ defense in points, scoring 8-19-27 from the blue line. 

The Rams started the season lukewarm going 5-5, but they had good wins against Bemidji twice this season and beating Warroad two times. Roseau will head into the State Tournament with some momentum winning nine of their past 10 games, their biggest win coming against Warroad, 2-1.