Tom Elliott: Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, Willmar and River Lakes women’s hockey teams have eye on sections – West Central Tribune
The world of preparatory hockey is ending its regular season. And while no West Central Tribune area team has knocked it out of the park as the surefire state tournament team, there are a few contenders.
In women’s hockey, Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, River Lakes and Willmar all have decent chances of playing for the sectional championships. All three are around the .500 mark, so they may have escaped the radar screen of top teams this winter.
However, all three play their share of class AA programs. Move them to Class A and that’s another story. They have a blow to the state.
The girls from River Lakes and the boys from Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato represented the mid-west region at the state tournament last March. The two could return to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Both have their work cut out for them and will need one upset, maybe two, for this to happen again.
Here is an overview of the sections for boys and girls that have zone teams in them.
First the girls:
Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato will enter as the likely second seed on Tuesday behind likely No. 1 seed Mankato East. Mankato East is 14-4 and has a QRF power rating of No. 15 in Class A, according to the Minnesota-Scores.net website, which is used in some sections for seeding.
Just behind East is Litch/DC. The Dragons are 9-8-1 and have a QRF No. 22. They are the most improved women’s team in the region after going 3-12-1 in 2020-21.
Litch/DC’s most compelling case for being a strong state tournament contender is a 4-3 loss to Mankato East on Dec. 23 in Litchfield. It doesn’t take long to see how the Dragons could turn the tide in a rematch, perhaps in a Section Final.
A good test for Litch/DC is against Minnesota River on Tuesday night. No. 29 Minnesota River (8-10) is likely the third seed in the section. It could spoil the Dragons’ second-seeded hopes with a win tonight.
The rest of the section are No. 38 Waconia (5-13-1), No. 40 Hutchinson (2-13-1) and No. 46 Mankato West/Loyola/St. Claire. They are all struggling to position themselves with likely first-round road games in the six-team section, the playoffs of which begin Feb. 10.
This is the section in which River and Willmar lakes reside. Today, No. 10 Fergus Falls (13-3-2) would be the top seed, followed by No. 18 River Lakes (10-9) and No. 20 Willmar (9-9). All three, of course, are Central Lakes Conference teams, which includes Class AA Brainerd/Little Falls, Alexandria, St. Cloud and Sartell/Sauk Rapids. This busy schedule helps make the records for Fergus Falls, River Lakes and Willmar a little misleading. All are battle tested.
River Lakes lost 1-0 and 5-1 to Fergus Falls and beat Willmar 3-2 and 4-0.
Willmar lost to Fergus Falls 4-2 on Dec. 16 and will face the Otters on Feb. 3 in Fergus Falls in the regular season finale. A win there for the Cardinals would make the section even more interesting.
No. 26 Northern Lakes (10-7-1) is likely the No. 4 seed in the section, followed by No. 35 Breckenridge/Wahpeton (3-5), No. 45 Prairie Center (3-12) and No. 48 Morris/Benson Zone (1-13).
The state women’s hockey tournament will be held Feb. 23-26 in St. Paul.
And now, boys:
Litch/DC have their work cut out for them to repeat themselves as section champions. The Dragons have a QRF No. 23 power ranking, which currently puts them as the fifth seed in the section. They have an 8-5-1 record.
Ahead of Litch/DC in the QRF rankings section are No. 5 Minneapolis (10-3-1), No. 6 Providence Academy (12-3-1), No. 7 Delano (10-4) and No. 11 Southwest. Christian/Richfield (8-5-1).
Minneapolis is a co-op of all public schools in the city and is certainly not a prohibitive favorite. Litch/DC tied the Novas 3-3 in overtime on Jan. 6 at Litchfield.
The Dragons also lost to Southwest Christian/Richfield 6-4. They face Delano on Thursday and February 8 and also face Hutchinson twice (January 25 and February 11). These four games are crucial to Litch/DC’s chances of advancing into the top seeds.
No. 27 Hutchinson (8-8) is just behind the Dragons and No. 31 Orono (7-8-1) and No. 35 Mound-Westonka / Watertown-Mayer (6-9) are capable of progress.
No. 44 Breck (3-8), No. 51 Bloomington Kennedy (3-8-1) and No. 56 Waconia (4-9) will likely be the lowest-ranked in this 11-team section. The playoffs begin on February 22.
River Lakes is part of that 10-team section and could win with a No. 4 seed because of its Central Lakes Conference schedule that includes Class AA teams. The Stars have a QRF No. 25 Class A rating and are 7-7.
Number 4 Little Falls (15-1) is the clear favorite. No. 8 Cambridge-Isanti (12-2) and No. 14 St. Cloud Cathedral (9-6) head to the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively.
River Lakes have to watch out for Mora/Milaca (10-4-2), who has a QRF No. 41 and sits just behind the Stars. Teams are scheduled to play Feb. 4 in Richmond with the No. 4 seed possibly on the line.
No. 43 Princeton (6-9), No. 46 Monticello (5-10), No. 53 Pine City Area (6-11), No. 58 Sauk Rapids (4-11) and No. 72 Becker/Big Lake 2-12) are sleepers.
This eight-team section could see the MBA Storm (6-6-1) with their No. 32 QRF ranking earn a fourth seed and a first-round playoff game.
No. 67 Willmar (4-8) could progress with wins over Prairie Center on Jan. 28 and Northern Lakes on Jan. 31. Both are ahead of the Cardinals in the QRF. Northern Lakes (7-6) is No. 38 and Prairie Center (4-10) is No. 54. Closer is No. 78 Breckenridge-Wahpeton (0-11).
No. 9 Fergus Falls (10-5), No. 16 Wadena-Deer Creek (11-5) and No. 19 Alexandria (7-5-1) are the top three.
The state men’s hockey tournament will be held March 9-12 in St. Paul.