Much like political elections for state representatives, every two years the state of Minnesota undergoes a highly anticipated makeover in its high school competitive section assignments, with high school sports parents, players, and fans eagerly awaiting for the new roadmaps to the various state tournaments.
There are years where the section assignments do not change, and then there are years where the results of the shuffling cause more of a stir than the elections that actually affect the daily lives of Minnesotans.
In the case of Class 2A, Section 6 in girls’ high school hockey, the head-scratching, and furrowed brows are warranted.
After two seasons of Edina and Blake, routinely the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the state doing battle in the 6-2A final, the consensus around the state hoped for a realignment that would allow the state’s best teams (and best players) an equal shot at the big stage.
Despite the cry for a better competitive balance, the decision was made to add Minnetonka to the mix, giving 6-2A Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Blake, Cretin-Derham Hall, Edina, and Wayzata in addition to the Skippers. The section now features a fast-rising Red Knights’ program and five other teams that are perennially ranked in the top-15 year in and year out.
Looking even further into the future, if the section assignments remain the same, keep in mind that in the 15A and 12A State Tournaments, Edina defeated Minnetonka in both championship games, and Wayzata finished fourth in 15A.
If Edina makes a run for fourth straight state championship, it will have to go through the toughest section in the state - again.
Perhaps one of the biggest beneficiaries of Minnetonka’s move (in addition to last year’s section runner-up Eden Prairie) is Holy Family Catholic, another program with a bright future after going 16-7-3 with 15 underclassmen on last year’s roster. The Fire ended their co-op with Waconia entering this season, with the Wildcats also joining Section 2-2A.
Lakeville North will move from Section 1-2A to 3-2A, where the departure of East Ridge to Section 4-2A leaves a hole next to Eagan and growing programs in Apple Valley and Burnsville.
Section 7-2A, which had four teams spotted throughout the rankings last season, will add another talented group in North Wright County, which finished as Section 8-2A runner-up last season to eventual state tournament runner-up Brainerd/Little Falls. The section now features five teams (Andover, Elk River/Zimmerman, Grand Rapids/Greenway, Forest Lake, and North Wright County) that could become top-10 mainstays in the coming years.
Alexandria moves up to 8-2A from 6-1A, where the Cardinals will bring their resume of six Class 1A State Tournament appearances in the last seven years. The Cardinals should offer the section some juice along with Roseau and Brainerd/Little Falls.
Becca Kniss and the Eden Prairie Eagles can say goodbye to Minnetonka as the Skippers move into Section 6-2A. The Skippers knocked off the Eagles in last year's Section 2-2A finals.
On the boys’ side of the puck, North St. Paul and Tartan both drop to Section 4-1A, where Tartan could make some noise in the postseason. The Titans went 13-12-1 last season and fell to No. 2 seed Hill-Murray 3-2 in the section quarterfinals. The Polars will also fill out Section 4-1A, which has initially lost Northfield to Section 1-2A.
Armstrong/Cooper and St. Francis both opt down to Class 1A, with the Wings joining Section 2-1A and the Fighting Saints being added to Section 5-1A. The Wings went 13-13 last season, while the Fighting Saints posts a record of 9-17. St. Francis returns its top-four scorers from last season in Dylan Strate, Cody Strate, Ike Hassel, and Dayne Mann.
East Ridge could take over as the perennial No. 4 seed in Section 4-2A behind the usual suspects of Hill-Murray, White Bear Lake, and Stillwater.
Totino-Grace opts up to Class 2A, and the Eagles will slide into Section 5. The Eagles return three of last year’s five leading scorers and a handful of talented underclassmen from a team that went 19-8 and finished as Section 4-1A runner-up to Mahtomedi.
Cretin-Derham Hall remaining in Section 6-2A, populated by teams from the western suburbs, is a mild surprise considering the Raiders could have fit into Section 3-2A nicely with near-neighbors St. Thomas Academy, Eagan, and Park.
Matt Gleason and Cretin-Derham Hall will remain in Section 6-2A despite being a better geographical fit in Section 3-2A.