THE WEEK AHEAD: Section playoff seeding already coming into focus
A wrestling quadrangular with three state-ranked teams and a matchup of two girls hockey teams with designs on a Section 1A title highlight this week's sporting events to watch in southeastern Minnesota.
The first section tournament games of the winter sports season are just three weeks away.
The Section 1A and 1AA girls hockey playoffs are set to begin on Feb. 9. A pair of games in southeastern Minnesota this week could influence the seeding process for both of those tournaments.
A couple of state-ranked basketball teams have tough weeks in front of them, and three ranked wrestling teams will be in the same gym on Thursday night.
Those matchups highlight a big week ahead in local sports:
• Austin at Albert Lea, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: With Lourdes dissolving its program and Faribault not putting a team on the ice this year, Austin and Albert Lea are the teams to beat in a four-team Section 1A. They go head-to-head for the second time this season on Thursday. Albert Lea beat Austin 3-2 at Austin back on Nov. 23 when Morgan Goskeson scored a power-play goal with 3:23 to go. An Albert Lea win will likely lock up a No. 1 seed.
• Lakeville South at Dodge County, 7:30 p.m. tonight: This is a measuring-stick game for a Dodge County program that plays a challenging schedule every season. South is ranked No. 4 in the state and brings a 17-1-0 record into the game. Dodge County is 9-9-0 overall, but 7-3-0 in its past 10. It has allowed just 1.8 goals per game over its past 13 games.
• Z-M triangular, 5 p.m. Thursday: Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Albert Lea and Byron/Lourdes figure to be the top challengers to Kasson-Mantorville in Section 1AA. Those three teams will gather in Zumbrota for a triangular that will offer bragging rights — and leverage when it comes time to seed the section dual tournament — to the winners.
• Goodhue quadrangular, 5 p.m. Thursday: Three state-ranked wrestling teams will be in Goodhue’s gym for a series of duals. Kasson-Mantorville (No. 2, Class AA); Dover-Eyota (No. 9, A) and GMLOS will join Goodhue (No. 11, A) for the Wildcats’ quadrangular. Goodhue enters the week 9-1, while D-E is 8-4. The Section 1 wrestling meets begin in a month.
ADAPTED FLOOR HOCKEY
• Minneapolis at Rochester Raiders, 5:30 p.m. today (at Freidell Middle School): This is not only the season-opening game for the Raiders, it’s the first game they’ll play in close to two years, since early March of 2020. The COVID pandemic wiped out the state tournament in 2020, and it wiped out all of the 2021 season.
• Goodhue at Caledonia, vs. Lake City, at Stewartville: Goodhue, the No. 3-ranked team in Class AA, will have its five-game winning streak put to the test this week with a gauntlet in front of it. The 13-1 Wildcats — who have defeated Byron, St. Croix Lutheran, Lourdes and Minneota over the past two weeks — have another tough week ahead. Goodhue plays at Caledonia (11-5) today, hosts Lake City (10-3) on Friday, then plays at Stewartville (7-4) on Saturday. The matchups against Caledonia and Lake City could have heavy bearing on seedings for the Section 1AA playoffs.
BOYS SWIMMING & DIVING
• Century vs. John Marshall, 6:30 p.m. Thursday (at John Marshall): It’s the quirk of Century not having a pool in its school: The Panthers will “host” rival JM on Thursday at JM’s pool. Both teams are coming off emphatic dual victories last Thursday. Century toppled Faribault 96-77, led by Jameson Bargfrede winning two individual events and two relays. JM routed Albert Lea 93-63 behind Tucker Holmes, Andrew Ogren and Jayden Edmonson, who all won two individual events and two relays.
• Hastings at Mayo, 7:15 p.m. today: Section 1AA has some talented teams at the top: No. 6-ranked Lakeville South (9-3-0) and Lakeville North (10-2-0) are perennial powers. Hastings (13-2-1) and Rochester Mayo (8-2-3) are right up there, too. The Raiders and Spartans will meet tonight at Graham Arena I. Mayo — after having a scheduled intra-city rivalry game against John Marshall postponed last Saturday — is set to follow tonight's game by facing rival Century on Thursday at Graham I.
• La Crescent-Hokah at Lewiston-Altura (Thursday), at P-E-M (Friday): Unbeaten La Crescent-Hokah (7-0) hasn’t played a game since Jan. 3, due to postponements. The Lancers get back to it in a big way this week. After a home game against 9-2 Spring Grove tonight, the Lancers face two stiff Three Rivers Conference road tests. They’re set to play at Lewiston-Altura (9-2) on Thursday, then at Plainview-Elgin-Millville (10-0) on Friday. P-E-M also has a daunting schedule this week, playing at No. 4-ranked Rushford-Peterson on Monday, then at Pine Island on Tuesday before hosting La Crescent.