‘Some of the highest levels of youth hockey competition’: 8 teams face-off in ice hockey tournament
By Robert Hopwood
The boys will skate into town this weekend, determined to prove they’re the best in the state.
The Lake of the Woods International Arena and Lake of the Woods Youth Hockey will host the Bantam AA State Tournament starting Thursday. The four-day event is the barn’s largest competition since it opened in 2019, arena Director Sam Lyon said.
It’s another achievement for the young arena, which has hosted a couple of regional tournaments but nothing like this weekend’s barnburners.
The games are expected to draw 400 or more people, including players, coaches and family members, Lyon said. Even more could attend, depending on how many spectators the games draw from across Northern Minnesota.
“I think we’re expecting a strong crowd, and not just from Baudette, but from International Falls, Warroad, Roseau,” Lyon said. “I think especially you’ll see a really big crowd on Sunday, the championship games.”
The tournament features eight teams. Moorhead, Osseo-Maple Grove, Stillwater, West St. Paul, White Bear Lake, Eden Prairie, Andover and Bemidji qualified for this year’s state championship series.
The tournament starts Thursday evening with a private banquet at the Sportsman Lodge along Rainy River. The resort will serve players and coaches a good ol’ Lake of the Woods fish fry, complete with fried walleye, shore lunch potatoes, coleslaw and baked beans.
After that Northwoods welcome, the competition begins.
The first puck is expected to hit the ice at noon Friday when Moorhead and Osseo-Maple Grove face off at the arena, next to Lake of the Woods School.
Friday’s games are scheduled to continue every two hours. Stillwater is expected to play West St. Paul at 2 p.m., White Bear Lake plans to face off against Eden Prairie at 4 p.m. and Andover and Bemidji will close out the day with a game scheduled at 6 p.m.
All eight teams are expected to return to the ice Saturday. The first game is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., with the other matches scheduled at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
The last three games will be played Sunday, starting with the consolation match at 9 a.m. The third-place match is scheduled at 11 a.m., and the state championship game is expected to begin at 1 p.m.
The tournament is open to puckheads across the state.
A tournament pass is $20, or $10 for seniors and students. Daily passes are $10, or $8 for seniors and students. Children 10 and under get the best deal. They can attend the games for free.
“This is some of the highest levels of youth hockey competition available in the state, and we are expecting a crowd of scouts who will show up to see the best of the best at this age level,” Lyon said.
The tournament should give the local economy an assist this weekend.
“There’s stuff happening around (the tournament) that is not just hockey-related and is obviously bringing money into the community,” Lyon said.
The teams and their families have booked rooms at local hotels and resorts. Community clubs are serving special meals. New Moon Coffeehouse and Eatery (211 Main Street W, Baudette) is planning a special for the weekend. And Northlake Cafe (813 Second Street NW, Baudette) will have extended weekend hours.
The VFW (204 International Drive NE, Baudette) will be serving a spaghetti dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. And the Moose Lodge (103 Main Street E, Baudette) plans to serve pulled pork sandwiches from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Both meals will be $10 per person and open to the public.
“Businesses are gearing up … to accommodate the influx of people,” Lyon said.
She said she’s grateful for the support the community has shown for the tournament.
“A tournament like this is not feasible without a community saying yes, let’s go for it,” she said.