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Open Ice: New Class, More Opportunity

09/28/2012, 1:30pm CDT
By Dave Margenau

With new “A/AA” classifications, 16 additional teams will experience state this year

The new format provides more teams from different associations a chance to compete and ultimately capture a Minnesota Hockey state championship under the Minnesota Hockey banner.

Young hockey players dream of playing in a state tournament, whether it’s the first time they lace up with the local association or it’s their senior year on the high school varsity squad.

This year, Minnesota Hockey has taken action to provide that opportunity to more players, teams and associations.

As a pilot program for the 2012-2013 season, a new “AA” class will be added to the existing boys’ Peewee A and Bantam A playoff formats to address the size disparities among the state’s community hockey associations. The “AA” tournament will primarily include the state’s larger associations. The “A” tournament will primarily include smaller associations.

The addition of the “AA” tournament at the A level will provide players from smaller or developing associations the opportunity to realistically compete for a spot in a state tournament. The new format will accomplish this; however, it is being tested on a one-year pilot basis to ensure that all state tournaments continue to best serve the entire membership in the long term.

This does not prevent teams from either tournament class from playing each other in the regular season. In other words, the Minnetonka Peewee A team will still be able to play the Park Rapids Peewee A team, but those teams will not face each other in the Minnesota Hockey regional or state tournaments at the end of the year.

This is similar to the Minnesota State High School League’s model, which includes Class A and Class AA state tournaments, but all varsity teams still have the ability to play each other during the regular season.

The new format provides more teams from different associations a chance to compete and ultimately capture a Minnesota Hockey state championship under the Minnesota Hockey banner.

“I think having an ‘A’ state tournament for smaller associations allows our top Peewee and Bantam players the opportunity to compete against all ‘A’ teams in the state during the season,” District 12 Director Steve Oleheiser said. “But it also gives our players a realistic state tournament goal come March.  I appreciate that Minnesota Hockey is willing to give this format a try.”

Please contact your district director with any specific questions or comments. Contact information for all district directors can be found at minnesotahockey.org.

Highlights of the “AA” tournament process include:
• The “AA” tournament is solely for regional and state tournament purposes. “AA” regional/state tournament teams are still considered A teams during the regular season.
• An association’s initial tournament classification is determined by the classification of the boys’ high school
programs defined by the geographical area
the association serves.
• For associations who co-op for 2012-13, their classification will correspond to the highest high school classification of the co-op associations.
• Associations may request a change in their classification. Requests can be made (deadline: Oct. 6, 2012) to move up or down. The tournaments will be the same for both Bantam and Peewee levels. 
• Final decisions are made by the Minnesota Hockey Competition Committee.

Highlights of the “AA” tournament format include:
• Four eight-team “AA” regional tournaments will be conducted at both the Bantam A and Peewee A levels to determine the teams advancing to the “AA” state tournament.
• Two teams from each “AA” regional tournament will be seeded into the state tournament.
• If a district has one or two “AA” classified teams, those teams automatically advance to a regional tournament.
• If a district has three or more “AA” teams, that district will be awarded additional seeds to the regional tournaments to fill the remaining 32 spots. Those additional seeds will be awarded proportionally among the districts that have three or more “AA” teams.
• Districts are responsible for determining the teams and the seeding order of the teams advancing from their district to the region tournaments.

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