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Boys hockey playoffs have arrived
The goal of every boys high school hockey player in Minnesota is to play in the state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center. The road to that goal starts this week as section playoffs begin.
By March 3, the fields for the Class AA and Class A tournaments will be set. All three Review-area teams are vying for the berth out of Section 4AA.
Metro East Conference members Hill-Murray, Tartan and North join four teams from the Suburban East Conference and one from the Northwest Suburban Conference in Section 4AA.
The seedings for Section 4AA were not available for this edition of the Review.
Hill-Murray lost a memorable section final to Stillwater last year and the Pioneers and Ponies could once again be on a path to meet in this year’s final. White Bear Lake, which owns a victory over Stillwater this season, also has the ability to crash the party and could wind up a section finalist.
The Pioneers were ranked No. 1 earlier this season and sat at No. 10 in last week’s rankings. Hill-Murray ascended to the top spot in the rankings following a seven-game winning streak that included wins over Edina and Elk River.
After moving to No. 1, Hill-Murray went 3-3-1 over its next seven games. The Pioneers closed out the regular season with a 5-2 victory over Duluth Marshall on Feb. 15 before heading to Moorhead for a non-conference game on Feb. 18, past the deadline for this edition of the Review.
Tartan sported a respectable 16-7-1 record heading into its season finale against Woodbury on Feb. 18. Results of that final game were not available for this edition of the Review.
Prior to a 4-3 loss to Mounds View on Feb. 14, the Titans had a stretch in which they won eight of nine games.
During that 8-1 stretch, senior Sam Lindahl was almost impossible to contain. The senior forward scored at least one goal in all but one of the games and had points in all nine.
Lindahl kicked off the stretch with four goals and an assist against Park-Cottage Grove and then added a three-goal game two nights later against Mahtomedi. He picked up another hat trick along with two assists in a win over South St. Paul. Only North was able to prevent him from scoring a goal in those nine games, but he did dish out three assists against the Polars.
Through 24 games, Lindahl led Tartan in goals with 24, assists with 27 and points with 51. Teammate CJ Acker had an impressive 31 points but still trailed Lindahl by 20.
After winning only five games last season, North more than doubled that total this season. The Polars went 5-21 a year ago and this season were 12-12 heading into their season finale against Princeton on Feb. 18, past the deadline for this edition of the Review.
North amassed the majority of those victories in the first half of the season as it was 9-4 in early January. The Polars then suffered through a pair of three-game losing streaks as they went 3-8 from Jan. 12 to Feb. 14.
The Polars were able to increase their win total this season thanks in large part to a jump in scoring. Last season, North had eight players reach double digits in points in the regular season but no one made it to 20. This year, there are nine Polars with double digit points and six have more than 20.
Kory Pilarski led the team heading into the Princeton game with 47 points on 23 goals and 24 assists. Joe Reubish sat at 41 points on 16 goals and 25 assists and Nathan Conroy was third with 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists). Also reaching the 20-point mark were Kearby Larson (26 points), Austin Vandell (25) and Noah Smith (21).
The section tournament kicks off Feb. 21 with a first-round match-up of the eight and nine seeds. The winner of that game and the top seven seeds then play in the quarterfinals on Feb. 25.
The four quarterfinal winners advance to the semifinals on Feb. 28 and March 1 and the section championship will be decided on March 3. All games in the Section 4AA playoffs take place at Aldrich Arena.
Section 4AA boys hockey playoffs
Participating teams: Hill-Murray, Irondale/St. Anthony, Mounds View, North, Roseville, Stillwater, Tartan, White Bear Lake, Woodbury
Defending champion: Stillwater
Ranked teams (as of Feb. 15): No. 5 Stillwater, No. 10 Hill-Murray, No. 15 White Bear Lake
Schedule (All games at Aldrich Arena):
Feb. 21 -- Play-in game
Feb. 25 -- Quarterfinals
Feb. 28 -- First semifinal
March 1 -- Second semifinal
March 3 -- Championship game