Minnesota is known for high school hockey. Whether it’s profiling the legendary Boys State High School Hockey Tournament, epic rivalries like Roseau versus Warroad or the success of Minnesota natives in the National Hockey League, major news outlets have shined a national spotlight on the State of Hockey.
But, there’s still a well kept secret within Minnesota’s hockey scene: girls high school hockey.
The quality and depth of skill seen across girls high school hockey in Minnesota is nearly unrivaled across the country and even worldwide. Certainly, there has been top end talent in girls hockey since it became an official high school sport in the 1990’s. The impressive part is the number of girls who can play at a high level has been increasing ever since, and today, there may be no better place to watch girls hockey than Minnesota.
A Golden Group
Take for example the U.S. Under-18 Women’s team which has won three consecutive gold medals at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 Women’s World Championships, a tournament featuring the top high school age girls hockey players in the world. During the 2015, 2016 and 2017 tournaments, the team has included 8, 13 and 9 Minnesota girls high school players, respectively, on its 22-player roster.
Six of those players have been nominated for the 2017 Ms. Hockey Award, which is presented to the top senior girls hockey player in Minnesota. Five of the six girls actually won gold medals in back-to-back years so combined they have a total of 11 gold medals.
Yet, none of those senior gold medalists finished in the top 15 in scoring in the 2016-17 regular season and they’re all from different communities and high schools, a sign of how deep the talent pool is in Minnesota.
All of the 2017 Ms. Hockey semifinalists and four of the ten Senior Goalie of the Year semifinalists are committed to Division I schools for next season. If previous years are any indicator, they will likely have an immediate impact at the collegiate level too.
The 2016 Ms. Hockey semifinalists, who were also all recruited to play Division I women’s hockey, have combined for 115 points during their freshmen seasons this year. Ms. Hockey finalist Carly Bullock (Blake School) leads the group with 26 points in 27 games. Bullock’s 17 goals are second overall among college freshmen and is tied for 16th in the entire NCAA.
In 2014, Dani Cameranesi followed up winning the 2013 Ms. Hockey award by earning the 2013-2014 National Rookie of the Year in women's ice hockey.
Perhaps even more telling, there are a total of 147 Minnesotans playing NCAA Division I Women’s Hockey this season, which is approximately 30% of all Americans and 17% of all players, and almost all of them played with and against each other in high school hockey.
The Journey to Saint Paul
The Girls State High School Hockey Tournament may not draw the same crowds as the boys tournament, but it’s still the pinnacle of the girls high school hockey season. For those who haven’t seen a girls high school game recently, playoffs are the perfect time to give it another look because the players are laying it all on the line for the dream of bringing a state title to their school and their community.
Section playoffs are in full swing right now, and some of the matchups in section tournaments are likely to be just as high quality as the state tournament games.
Section tournaments are set to wrap up this week, and the winners will advance to the 2017 Girls State High School Hockey Tournament on February 22-25 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. For a full breakdown of postseason brackets and game locations, click here.