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State's best rivalries still going strong

By Loren Nelson, Legacy Hockey, 01/24/23, 2:00PM CST


Top Games | Week of Jan. 23: White Bear Lake flips script on Hill-Murray; Chanhassen finally faces anther top-ranked foe

Hill-Murray has defeated White Bear Lake in each of the past three Section 4AA championship games. Photo by Loren Nelson,

It’s been a good season for rivalries. 

The spacious Gardens Arena in Warroad was packed (3,000 or so fans in an 1,800 seat venue) a few weeks ago for the latest installment of the fabled Roseau versus Warroad feud that dates to the 1940s. An overflow crowd is expected again tonight at the cozy Roseau Memorial Arena when the teams meet for the rematch.

The classic rivalry between Cloquet/Esko/Carlton and Duluth East, semi-dormant for years in terms of excitement and interest as the teams have struggled through sub-par (by their standards) seasons, has had some of its old fire rekindled as both programs are in the midst of winning campaigns. 

Twin Cities-based suburban rivalries have been thriving, too. The annual slugfests between Chaska and Chanhassen and Lakeville North and Lakeville South, among others, have been as ferocious and well-attended as ever.  

Which brings us to Hill-Murray versus White Bear Lake. The matchup that checks almost every box that makes for a great rivalry — proximity, longevity, star power, historic games, public vs. private schools, rabid fan bases — also is in peak form.

The one strike against this rivalry over the past five decades has been Hill-Murray’s dominance. The Pioneers have won about 70 percent of the 90 games played in the series, including the teams’ last three meetings (by a combined score of 13-2) in the Section 4AA championship game. 

Saturday’s Hockey Day outdoor game at White Bear Lake’s Polar Lakes Park, however, features a departure from the normal script in that White Bear Lake is the prohibitive favorite.

The Bears are 13-2-0 and ranked No. 10 in Class 2A while the Pioneers are 6-8-1 and unranked. Injuries and inexperience have been among Hill-Murray’s bugaboos, but a 4-1 victory over Grand Rapids on Saturday is an encouraging sign for the Pioneers.

Other Top Games

Two of the top three teams in the Big 9 Conference meet on Wednesday as Rochester Mayo (11-3-1) travels across town to play Rochester Century (9-6-0). … One of the state’s more underrated public versus private school rivalries, Thursday opponents Delano (9-7-0) and Holy Family (11-5-0) have for the last decade or so battled each other for Wright County Conference supremacy. … Lake Conference games between No. 2-2A Wayzata (13-2-2) and No. 5-2A Edina (11-4-1), who meet on Thursday, always have added juice because of the Section 6AA seeding implications that go with them. …  No. 6-2A Eastview’s (9-6-0) game at No. 7-2A Cretin-Derham Hall (13-4-1) on Thursday will help determine the pecking order for the Section 3AA playoffs. … No. 1-2A Minnetonka (15-2-0) and goaltender Kaizer Nelson face a tough test on Saturday against high-powered No. 11-2A Lakeville South (10-4-1).

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