Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Blog: Four Gopher commits make 2017 Minnesota Boys HS Tournament

By the time this gets published the puck will be dropped at a sold out Xcel Energy Center on one of Minnesota's most cherished traditions. Nothing unites or shows off the "State of Hockey's" divides like the Minnesota Boys High School Hockey State Tournament.

Four University of Minnesota commits - Eden Prairie's Casey Mittelstadt and Jack Jensen, Grand Rapids' Blake McLaughlin, and Wayzata's Colin Schmidt - will be playing in this weekend's tournament.

All four are on the Class AA side of the sixteen team, two class tournament, which starts Thursday.

Of the quartet, the big story is Mittelstadt, who turned down a chance to accelerate and play with the Gophers for a final chance to win the Class AA title that eluded him a year ago. (An "only in Minnesota" decision given the incoming freshman is projected to be a top-10 pick in this summer's NHL Draft.) Eden Prairie returns as the #1 seed having gotten through a tough Section 2AA thanks in part to him and sophomore forward Jensen, who has 17 goals in 27 games.

Fittingly Eden Prairie's quest at the X begins with a quarterfinal game at 6 pm against Schmidt and Wayzata, the team that busted Mittelstadt's hopes in the 2016 Class AA finals. The Trojans are playing its best hockey at the right time. After winning 7 games in the regular season, Wayzata won three Section 6AA playoff games, including upsetting favorite Edina.

Coming off of a double OT win against Duluth East in the Section 7AA final, McLaughlin's Grand Rapids team plays at 8pm (or whenever the EP-Wayzata game ends) against Maple Grove. If the Thunderhawks win the junior forward - a healthy scratch of his own doing in last year's state tournament - would play either EP of Wayzata.

The games can be seen on TV throughout the state (KSTC 45 holds the rights in the Twin Cities. If you're outside Minnesota there is a live stream for $10 a day or you can listen to the audio for free at MSBN Sports.

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