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Lourdes to face Hibbing in state hockey opener

Rochester Lourdes has become the first Rochester hockey team to earn a seed at a state tournament.

The 24-3-1 Eagles were awarded the No. 3 seed in next week's Class A state tournament and will play Hibbing (17-9-2) in a state quarterfinal game at approximately 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Minnesota State High School League began seeding the top four teams in the state tournament in 2007. Five Rochester teams have qualified for state since then, but Lourdes is the first to earn a seed.

The Eagles are making their third consecutive trip to state. They have finished fifth each of the past two years.

Hibbing is playing as well as it has all season. The Bluejackets steamrolled through the Section 7A tournament, winning three games by a combined score of 19-1. Their run to state was capped by a 5-0 victory against their top rival, Virginia, in the section final.

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In the section tournament, the Bluejackets turned around a dismal end to the regular season. They went 3-6-1 in their final 10 regular season games, including a 4-0 loss to Virginia and a 2-2 against Section 5A champion Hermantown in their final two games.

"They're a tough northern team," Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol said. "They have a great top line. We have to have good defense and goaltending.

"Our top guys have to get us going, but we're excited for the challenge."

Hibbing is ranked No. 10 in the most recent Class A state poll, while Lourdes is ranked third.

Lourdes and Hibbing did not play during the regular season, but they have two common opponents. Both teams beat Albert Lea. Hibbing beat Duluth Marshall, while Lourdes fell to Marshall in early January.

The Bluejackets are led by sophomore Adam Johnson, who has 38 goals and 42 assists, for 80 points; and senior Nick DeCenzo (23-55—78).

This is Lourdes' seventh trip to state. Its top finish came in 2001, when it was the state runner-up, falling to Benilde-St. Margaret's, 2-1, in the state championship game.

Hibbing is making its 13th state tournament appearance and first since 2004. The Bluejackets have won two state championships, in 1952 and 1973, and they have never placed worse than fifth at a state tournament.

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The Lourdes-Hibbing game will follow the 11 a.m. contest between Hermantown (23-3-2), the No. 2 seed, and Section 6A champ Alexandria (12-15-1).

Wednesday's evening session features top-ranked and No. 1 seed St. Thomas Academy (22-6-0), the Section 4A champion, against Section 3A winner New Ulm (21-4-2) at 6 p.m. That game is to be followed by fourth-seeded Breck (20-8-0), champion of Section 4A, against Section 8A winner Thief River Falls (19-8-1).

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