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Minnesota girls hockey Class A section previews: Warroad again looks strong

Minnesota girls hockey games start Nov. 10. Who are the favorites to head back to the state tournament?

Warroad huddles together
Warroad huddles together before the game in the Class A state girls hockey quarterfinals on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Sydney Wolf / The Rink Live

High school hockey is right around the corner. In fact, girls high school matches start Nov. 10. Who are the favorites to head back to the state tournament? Find out in a section-by-section preview of Class- A below.

SECTION 1A

Last year, Albert Lea was the team out of Section 1A that made the trip to the state tournament, but this season the section will look a little different.

Faribault is no longer in the section as they join a new Metro-South merger team with Double-A Burnsville and Dodge County will make the move from 1AA down to 1A.

Dodge County is the early favorite to win the section as they had a 14-12 record in Double-A last year. The team lost a couple of top scorers that graduated, but retain their goaltender and have a lot of young talent coming up.

Albert Lea was 14-12-1 last season and made the state tournament with a very, very young roster. Their leading scorers were two freshman and a seventh grader, and their goaltender will also return. It may be hard to defeat the recently Double-A Dodge County, but Albert Lea has the best shot to do so out of the teams in this section.

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Austin is a middle-of-the-pack team with their 15-11 finish last year. They had a winning record, but lost to Albert Lea both times they met.

The final two teams that round out Section 1A are Waseca (4-21-1) and Winona (0-19). It's unlikely either of these two teams will upset the top three, but look for them to improve on their records from last season.

SECTION 2A

Section 2A is likely to look the same as it did last season.

Mankato East won the section in 2021-22 and is the front-runner to do it again this year. The team had no seniors last year, so they retain top-scorers McKenzie Keller and Jess Eykyn , along with goaltender Anna Rader .

There is likely to be a battle for the second and third spots in the section between Minnesota River and Litchfield-Dassel-Cokato. The two rivals had a four-overtime battle in the section semifinal last year that LDC won, but both teams won one of their regular season games against the other. LDC doesn't have a ton of point-producers on its team compared to Minnesota River, but they played plenty of close games and had some good wins.

The bottom three teams of this section are Waconia (6-20-1), Mankato West (4-20-1) and Hutchinson (3-21-1).

SECTION 3A

Section 3A will be a battle again this year between New Ulm (23-4-1) and Luverne (23-5). Last season, Luverne won the section in a double-overtime victory, but New Ulm beat Luverne twice in the regular season.

New Ulm lost its two leading scorers, but retain their goaltender. It also plays a tougher schedule than Luverne, which can better prepare them for the postseason.

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Luverne won the section last season, but had a less-than-stellar first game at the state tournament, so they may have some unfinished business. They lose Reghan Bork (86-point scorer) and their goaltender, but still have a huge talent in Kamryn Van Batavia who scored 127 points last year.

It may come down to team depth for New Ulm and Luverne to see who will come out on top.

Marshall (13-14-1) will be a solid three-seed in the section. Seeds four through six will go to Fairmont (8-14), Windom (8-15), and Worthington (5-20).

SECTION 4A

This section has multiple teams that are able to make a state tournament push.

At the start of the year, it seems as though Simley is the most dangerous opponent in the section. The team returns all three of their top scorers. They lose one goaltender, but have plenty ready to step up. Simley had the best record in the section last year (18-5-3) but ran out of gas in the postseason.

South St. Paul (16-12-2) won the section last year, but lose top scorer Lilie Ramirez (44 points). Other players like Lily Pachl and Sarah Wincentsen will have to lead the way now along with goaltender Delaney Norman , but SSP has a chance to be a dangerous team again this year.

Chisago Lakes (13-14-1), Visitation (12-13-1), and Two Rivers/St. Paul (14-12-1), are middle of the pack teams that have the ability to be very good, but could also have a down year. Chisago Lakes and Two Rivers lose a large part of their offensive production from the year prior, which will need to be replaced.

Red Wing (4-20) is the final team to round out Section 4A.

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SECTION 5A

Orono (26-4) had a standout season last year lead by Iyla Ryskamp, but she graduated, and the team will have a new coach this season, so things may be a little different. The team loses Kaeli Koopman (25 points) as she transferred to Benilde-St. Margaret's, but gain Delano/Rockford's leading scorer Kali Schmidt (37 points). Orono may look different this year but they are still likely to be the front-runner for their section.

The Academy of Holy Angels (22-5-1) also had a very solid season last year, but getting past Orono will be tough as three of the team's five losses were to the Spartans last year. AHA keeps a good chunk of their scoring, but lose their goaltender, so there could be a couple of questions to answer as the season starts.

Mound Westonka/SW Christian (19-7) is a sneakily good team and have one of the top players in the state with Sydney Leonard . The team had a good record last year but were majorly upset by Breck in the section quarterfinal, so that can raise concern about the squad.

Delano/Rockford lose their leading scorer as she has transferred to Orono. That will be a major piece to replace if the Tigers want to stay competitive in the section.

Minneapolis (8-17), Pine City Area (9-16-1) and Breck (3-20-1), didn't have the best seasons last year, but all have the possibility to win an upset or two.

SECTION 6A

Fergus Falls (19-6-2) and River Lakes (18-13) were the top two teams in 6A last year and we will likely see that again in 2022-23.

Although Fergus Falls had more wins, River Lakes took the trip to the state tournament last year. Both teams lose their leading scorers, so anything can happen this season.

Northern Lakes and Willmar fall in the middle of the section. Northern Lakes did take River Lakes to overtime in the section semifinal last year, so they have potential to be a feisty squad. Both teams will need younger players to step up and produce some points.

Breckenridge/Wahpeton (6-5) didn't play many games last season, but did defeat bottom-of-the-section teams Prairie Centre (5-17-1) and Morris-Benson Area (2-21-1).

Warroad vs Proctor-Hermantown_0693.jpg
Proctor/Hermantown fans watched is disbelief as Warroad went ahead 6-1 late in the third period Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

SECTION 7A

Proctor/Hermantown (21-8-1) has been the dominant team in the section the past few years and it should be no different this year.

The state runner-up has plenty of Division I talent on the roster and now add Hailey Jussila of Elk River in as a transfer. The only question will be goaltending, as Abby Pajari has graduated.

The middle of this section could be a toss up between Duluth Marshall (17-8), Moose Lake Area (18-7-1), and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton (19-7-1).

Duluth Marshall returns Ilsa Lindaman , but loses Annika Lindgren . Moose Lake Area retains almost their entire roster, since it had a very young team in 2021-22. C-E-C lost its top scorers but had the most wins of the three teams last year.

Hibbing/Chisholm (12-12-3) lingers in the middle of the section, while North Shore and Rock Ridge look to improve at the bottom.

SECTION 8A

Warroad (26-3-1) is the answer for Section 8A. The Warriors only get stronger this season as they add in top North Dakota high school hockey players Rylee Bartz and Lexi Kirkeby . It will be hard for anyone to upset the reigning state champions this year.

Crookston (19-7-1) looks to be a solid number-two team. Although its loses a lot of scoring from last year, the Pirates will add in players from the Sacred Heart School to bolster their roster.

The rest of the section will likely end up similar to last year with East Grand Forks (7-14-1) and Thief River Falls (6-17-2) followed by Detroit Lakes (4-21) and International Falls (0-21).

Who will win the 2023 state title?

The trek to the 'X' starts Thursday, Nov. 10.

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Sydney Wolf is a reporter for The Rink Live, primarily covering youth hockey. She joined the team in November of 2021 and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric Studies and was a part of the University Honors Program.
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