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GHS: 2023 State Tournament Preview

By Peter Odney , 02/20/23, 4:45PM CST


Capsules for all eight quarterfinal matchups across both classes.

Class A

11:00 AM: Mankato East vs. (2) Proctor/Hermantown

McKenzie Keller (middle), Mankato East

The Cougars of Mankato East (20-6) are making their second straight appearance at the state tournament, having finished as runners-up in last year's consolation championship. 

Like 2022, the Cougars enter this year's tournament as a Random Draw, meaning they'll get to face one of the tournament's top three seeds. Last year, it was Orono. In 2023, It's the No. 2 seed Proctor/Hermantown. 

For the Cougars to have a chance at advancing out of the quarterfinals, senior forward McKenzie Keller (27 goals, 30 assists, 57 points) will need to be her productive self, aided by junior forward Jessica Eykyn (19-12-31) and a trio of 20-plus point performers. Senior goaltender Anna Rader (20-6/1.20/.945/10) was named a Senior Goalie of the Year semifinalist by Let's Play Hockey. 

Proctor/Hermantown (19-6-2) looks to make its third consecutive appearance in the Class A State Tournament championship game, having won it all in 2021 and finishing as runners-up last season. 

Depth is the operative word for the Mirage, which has shown an ability to roll a dozen talented players onto the ice in any situation. 

The Mirage has 12 players that have recorded 10 or more points this season, led by junior forward Hannah Graves (14-21-35) and senior forward Reese Heitzman (18-11-29). Goaltenders Neelah McLeod and Suri Langley have rotated evenly throughout the season, with McLeod logging 731:58 of ice time and Langley right behind with 661:44. The pair has combined for six shutouts this season.  

Hannah Graves is one of several forwards for Proctor/Hermantown that can break open a game.

1:00 PM: Luverne vs. (3) Orono

Kamryn Van Batavia, Luverne

High-flying senior forward and Minnesota State commit Kamryn Van Batavia makes her way to St. Paul for the fourth straight season, bringing an impressive stat line of 59 goals and 79 points. Through Section 3A play, the Ms. Hockey finalist has 450 career points according to Let's Play Hockey, ranking third all-time and within striking distance of second-leading scorer Nicole Schammel's 457 points. 

Van Batavia leads a very young Cardinals (21-6) team as one of only three seniors, and her offensive output is supplemented by sophomore Payton Behr (17-32-49) and younger sister Ellisyn (10-23-33). 

Since losing to Section 5A rival Mound Westonka/Southwest Christian on Dec. 28, Orono has gone 12-0-2, avenging regular-season losses to the Whitehawks and Holy Angels with wins in the Section semifinals and finals, respectively. 

One of the strongest skating teams in the field, the Spartans (20-3-4) have no shortage of talent up front and on the blueline. Sophomore Zoe Lopez (34-12-46) and freshman Maddy Kimbrel (18-25-43) lead the way on the stat sheet for the Spartans, who also feature productive defender Grace Bickett (5-31-36) and Senior Goalie of the Year semifinalist Celia Dahl (19-3-4/1.21/.933/11). 

Grace Bickett, Orono

6:00 PM: Albert Lea vs. (1) Warroad

Jayda Moyer, Albert Lea

After the Section 1A championship heroics of Olivia Ellsworth (overtime game-winning goal) and goaltender Jayda Moyer (28 saves on 30 shots) in an upset victory over the section's top seed Dodge County, the Tigers of Albert Lea (18-7-2) are rewarded with a date with the state's top Class A squad Warroad.

Sophomore defender Mika Cichosz (30-11-41) and eighth-grade forward/defender Morgan Goskeson (21-14-35) will be tasked with attempting to put points on the board for the Tigers, who are making their second straight state tourney appearance. 

What's left to say about Warroad (23-3-1)? The top-ranked team in Class A for the entire 2022-2023 season, the defending state champions wield arguably the top forward line in the state, regardless of class, and average nearly seven goals per game.

Seniors Rylee Bartz (54-43-97), Talya Hendrickson (35-55-90), and Kate Johnson (33-55-88) have combined for a ridiculous 275 points this season, while senior goaltender Kate Stephens has provided a 1.63 goals-against-average and six shutouts for the Warriors. 

Talya Hendrickson, Warroad

8:00 PM: (5) Fergus Falls vs. (4) South St. Paul

Maddie Hulter, Fergus Falls (Photo by Melissa Babolian)

Making its first state tournament trip since 2019, Fergus Falls cruises into St. Paul unbeaten in its last six games and on an emotional high after a thrilling overtime victory over River Lakes in the Section 6A championship game. 

Five seniors lead the Otters (22-4-1) to the Xcel Energy Center, with Maddie Hulter (29-32-61) and Tyra Skjeret (20-24-44) atop the leaderboard in scoring. A youth movement follows, with freshman Hannah Johnson (15-16-31) and 8th-grader Maddie Brimhall (13-12-25) showing flashes of untapped scoring potential. 

The Otters have rotated evenly between juniors Lexi Metcalf and Ana Jyrkas this season. The duo has combined for eight shutouts. 

One of the original powers in girls' hockey, South St. Paul makes yet another trip to the big dance, headed by an offensive-minded defender and rock-solid goaltending. 

Sound familiar?

The Packers (21-5-1) have relied on this formula for the last few seasons, and this year, it's Lily Pachl's turn to show the hockey world that she's the next great Packer blueliner after Lilie Ramirez moved on to the collegiate level. A sophomore, Pachl (23-30-53) leads the Packers in scoring, and the goaltending duties have been handled (and handled, and handled) by veteran senior Delaney Norman (17-5-1/1.30/.938/7). 

Lily Pachl, South St. Paul

Class AA

11:00 AM: Rosemount vs. (2) Andover

Anna Shandorf, Rosemount

After eking out a 3-2 overtime victory over Cretin-Derham Hall in the Section 3AA finals, Rosemount finds itself in the crosshairs of Andover, the defending Class AA state champions who have simply reloaded after its title run. Do the Irish have any more magic left in the bag?

The Irish (15-11-2) have relied heavily on their top forward line of junior Sophie Stramel (14-19-33) and seniors Anna Shandorf (14-16-30) and Cece Hanson (9-20-29). Those three skaters have combined for 37 goals, nearly half of Rosemount's overall total of 77. 

While the Irish have three players that have eclipsed the 25-point mark this season, Andover (25-3) features seven such players, with an eighth merely four points away from the 25-point threshold.
Senior and Ms. Hockey finalist Ella Boerger leads the team in scoring with 40 goals and 73 points, followed by Ms. Hockey semifinalist Isa Goettl (22-44-66). Maya Engler (17-20-37) and Madison Brown (17-19-36) are third and fourth among Husky skaters, with Brown's point total made all the more impressive, considering she's missed 11 games due to injury. 

Senior goaltender Courtney Stagman has played every minute for the Huskies, recording a 1.11 goals-against-average, .934 save percentage, and a (tied for) state-leading 11 shutouts. 

Courtney Stagman, Andover

1:00 PM: Lakeville North vs. (3) Edina

Ashley Wagenbach, Lakeville North

Helped in part by a handful of transfers from Burnsville, Lakeville North skated its way to 21 wins during the regular season and section playoffs, blasting Rochester Mayo 14-0 before gutting out wins over Owatonna 2-1 and Northfield 5-3 in a wild Section 1A. 

Junior forwards Addison Bowlby (23-25-48) and Gracie Hanson (19-25-44) lead the Panthers (21-7) in scoring, followed by sophomore forward Shay Swanson (11-16-27) and junior defender Ashley Wagenbach 12-8-20. Goaltenders Addison Oettinger and Kaia Weiland have each recorded a win/loss result in 14 games this season, with Weiland earning the win in the section finals with 24 saves on 27 shots against Northfield. 

Edina (21-4-2) may have felt snubbed when Section 6AA coaches seeded the Hornets second behind Blake in the playoffs, but the four-time state champions had the last laugh, blanking the Bears 4-0 in the section championship game. 

The Hornets' ninth consecutive trip to the Class AA State Tournament has been powered primarily by senior goaltender Uma Corniea, a fixture at state tournaments since she was a Peewee. Corniea is the frontrunner for Senior Goalie of the Year, and this season has posted a GAA of 0.90 and a save percentage of .958. During the season, Corniea became the state's all-time leader in goalie wins and shutouts. 

Offensively, the Hornets are led by junior Hannah Halverson (14-24-38), sophomore Whitney Horton (14-20-34), and freshman Lorelai Nelson (14-18-32). 

Whitney Horton, Edina

6:00 PM: Centennial/Spring Lake Park vs. (1) Minnetonka

Lauren O'Hara, Centennial/Spring Lake Park

Eighth-grader Jaycee Chatleain knocked in a loose puck with 90 seconds to play in Centennial/Spring Lake Park's 2-1 Section 5AA championship win over Maple Grove, and the Cougars will likely hope for a low-scoring affair with timely goals in their opening-round matchup with the tournament's top seed Minnetonka. 

The Cougars (21-6-1) are far closer to a No. 5 seed than a No. 8 seed, making them a less-than-desirable quarterfinal opponent for the Skippers. Ms. Hockey finalist Lauren O'Hara (35-20-55) is the heart and soul of the Cougars' offensive attack, with supplemental scoring coming from Noelle Hemr (19-12-31), Grace Laager (9-21-30), Ella O'Hearn (15-14-29) and Jaycee Chatleain (7-21-28). Goaltender Kaitlin Groess (15-6-1/1.84/.929/6) has long been considered one of the top goaltenders in her age group, and her aggressive style could frustrate the high-powered Skippers. 

After going 25-2 during the regular season and the Section 2AA playoffs, Minnetonka's No. 1 seed is well-earned. However, the Skippers may start advocating for a full-seeded field after drawing the unenviable task of facing the Cougars in the quarterfinals. 

However, the Skippers have proven over the course of the season that they can compete with anyone and feature as much firepower up front as any team in the state. Ms. Hockey semifinalist and Minnesota commit Ava Lindsay paces the Skippers with 23 goals and 41 points, with Minnesota Duluth commit Grace Sadura (16-23-39) and fellow Golden Gopher commit and Ms. Hockey semifinalist Josie Hemp (9-29-38) ranking second and third among Skippers. 13 players have registered 10 or more points for the Skippers this season. 

In goal, Ashlyn Hazlett and Layla Hemp have played nearly even time, with Hemp getting the nod in the Section 2AA finals against Holy Family. 

Layla Hemp, Minnetonka

8:00 PM: (5) Moorhead vs. (4) Gentry Academy

Olivia Kortan, Moorhead

Playing as loaded of a schedule as possible while hailing from an outpost that doesn't lend itself to regular games against ranked opponents, Moorhead arrives in St. Paul black and blue and battle-tested as the No. 5 seed. All seven of the Spuds' losses this season have come against ranked opponents, including two losses each to Andover and Class A power Warroad. 

While Moorhead (20-7) is missing a 30-goal scorer or multiple 20-goal scorers, the Spuds make up for it with a solid amount of depth up and down the lineup. Bria Holm leads the Spuds with 24 goals and 44 points, followed by a quartet of 30-pointers in Olivia Kortan (10-25-35), Kate Kosobud (11-23-34), Taylor Brueske (14-18-32) and Ella Holm (15-17-32). 

Goaltender Taylor Kressin has played all but 51 minutes of the season for the Spuds, posting a 2.17 GAA, .903 Save percentage, and four shutouts. 

Gentry Academy enters the state tournament on a nine-game winning streak, knocking off Section 4AA's top seed Hill-Murray in the process. While the Stars' schedule has been the subject of much discussion, the fact remains that the Stars have one of the state's best forwards (Cara Sajevic), two of the state's best defenders (JuliAnna and Jenessa Gazdik), and a goaltender coming off an 18-save performance against the talented Pioneers (Zoe Laming). 

Sajevic currently ranks eighth in the state in total points with 32 goals and 70 points, and the Gazdik defenders are committed to play for Minnesota State next season. That's not to mention Alexa Hanrahan, Grace Delmonico, and Rachel Agerter, three more Division I commits floating around the Stars' roster. 

The Stars (24-2) are making their third straight appearance at a state tournament, advancing to the state title game in the 2021 Class A tourney and finishing fourth at last year's Class AA event. 

Alexa Hanrahan, Gentry Academy

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