Experience should help Mounds View at state hockey tournament

Bella Sutton admitted that two years ago when the Mounds View High School girls hockey team made it to the state tournament, there was a “wide eyed” factor that affected the team. The Mustangs are back at state and Sutton is confident the big eyes won’t show up this time around.

At least a half-dozen members of this year’s squad played in the state tournament back in 2012. They will be counted on to lead the newcomers when the Mustangs take the ice at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday evening.

“I think it just helps us come into it without those big eyes and just focused,” said Sutton, who is a senior captain. “We’re not just satisfied with getting here now. We’re looking to do things. It just gives us that experience that we’ve been here before.”

Mounds View co-head coaches Aaron Moberg and Christina Hanson have seen what it’s like to have a team with state-tournament experience. Prior to coaching Mounds View, they were assistants with the South St. Paul High School girls hockey program, which routinely makes it to state.

“We saw that at South St. Paul with the girls who had experience being there,” Moberg said. “You could tell the teams that had experience and the teams that were new. I think that’ll be huge for our girls. It won’t be the first time playing at the X for a lot of them. That experience should pay dividends.”

Mounds View was a bit of an upstart in 2012. Coming off the 2011 season when they finished below .500 and dealing with a coaching change mid-season, the Mustangs entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed. They needed four overtimes to get past sixth-seeded Irondale in the quarterfinals. At that point, winning the section title wasn’t much of an expectation.

“Two years ago I think we were in shock,” Sutton said. “We were just awestruck.”

That isn’t the case this time around.

“This year, we thought we could do this,” said Sutton.

Mounds View lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament in 2012 to an experienced Edina team and went on to finish sixth. The Mustangs enter this year’s state tournament looking for more.

“We’re not just satisfied with getting here now,” said Sutton. “We’re looking to do things. It just gives us that experience that we’ve been here before.”

Moberg echoed those sentiments.

“In talking to our leadership, we felt like a couple of years ago they were so pumped just to get there,” Moberg said. “We’re not just playing this year to win the section title. We want to do some damage at state. They’ve had three goals all year and that’s part of it.”

Mounds View’s first chance to do some of that damage comes Thursday at 8 p.m. against Lakeville North, the champion of Section 1AA. The Panthers, seeded No. 4, are in the state tournament for the third straight year and for the fourth time in the last five.

The Mounds View/Lakeville North winner advances to Friday’s semifinals and an 8 p.m. contest against either top-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret’s or unseeded Roseau. Mounds View is familiar with Benilde after dropping a 4-3, overtime decision to the Red Knights on Jan. 21.

The other side of the bracket pits second-seeded Hill-Murray against unseeded Burnsville and No. 3 seed Eden Prairie against unseeded Andover. The two winners meet in the 6 p.m. semifinal on Friday.

The tournament concludes Saturday at 7 p.m. with the state championship game.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.

Class AA state girls hockey tournament
Quarterfinals, Feb. 20 at Xcel Energy Center

Game 1 - Burnsville (Unseeded) vs. Hill-Murray (No. 2 seed), 11 a.m.
Game 2 - Andover (Unseeded) vs. Eden Prairie (No. 3 seed), 1 p.m.
Game 3 - Roseau (Unseeded) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (No. 1 seed) 6 p.m.
Game 4 - Mounds View (No. 5 seed) vs. Lakeville North (No. 4 seed), 8 p.m.

Consolation semifinals, Feb. 21 at Ridder Arena
Game 5 - Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 6 - Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 12 p.m.

Semifinals, Feb. 21 at Xcel Energy Center
Game 7 - Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 8 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8 p.m.

Consolation championship, Feb. 22, noon at Ridder Arena
Game 9 - Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner

Third-place game, Feb. 22, 4 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center
Game 10 - Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser

Championship game, Feb. 22, 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center
Game 11 - Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner


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