Girls hockey state tournament primer: Can anyone beat Edina? And where’s Blake?

This year’s Minnesota girls state hockey tournament kicks off Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center with a day full of Class A quarterfinals. Here’s a primer on what to look for in St. Paul this week:

Edina is still on top. The defending state champions in Class 2A are back at the X, again as the top seed. The Hornets (25-2-1) are the overwhelming favorites, sporting eight Division-I commits and returning 12 players from last year’s title team.

Can anyone challenge the Hornets? The two teams that have beaten Edina this season are in this Class 2A field – Centennial and Eden Prairie. Second-seeded Centennial features a one-two punch in Gabbie Hughes and Anneke Linser on what might be the state’s best line. Eden Prairie is always a threat come tourney time, and is awfully familiar with its Lake Conference rival. Also, Hill-Murray always has the talent to beat anyone.

Where’s Blake? Good question. The Bears, who won the past two Class A titles and four of the past five, made the jump to Class 2A this season, and thrived there, too, but fell in a competitive 4-2 loss to Edina in the Class 2A, Section 6 final.

So this year’s Class A favorite is … top-seeded Warroad (22-3-2). The Warriors stood up to a challenging schedule this season, testing themselves against Class 2A competition and beating the No. 2 seed in Class A, Breck, 4-2, in January. The Warriors are young, with just three listed seniors, but very talented.

What about St. Paul United? United finished as the Class A runnerup to Blake each of the past two years, and actually bested Warroad in the semis in each of those tournaments. But while United has a slew of state experience — and is still led by dynamic forward Samantha Burke, a Cornell commit — it’s seeded fifth and will face an uphill climb to get back to the final.

Check out the full brackets here.

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