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Starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday and going through about 10 p.m. Friday, 16 boys hockey teams throughout Minnesota will win their section tournaments and earn spots in the Class 2A and 1A state tournaments. We call it 51 Hours of Fury. Come back to for more 51 Hours of Fury posts from David La Vaque and for coverage of section finals as scores come in from around Minnesota and anticipation builds.

8:08 a.m. Wednesday / Pregame, Class 2A, Section 8

Surprise, surprise. Bracket busting, usually a property of March, came early this year.

Who had No. 4 seed Elk River/Zimmerman taking on No. 6 seed Buffalo-Annandale for the Section 8 title at 7 p.m. Wednesday in St. Cloud?


From the dawn of this millennium, Section 8 has been the birthright of Moorhead players. Since 2001, the Spuds made 23 consecutive finals, going 15-8.

Not this year.

Elk River/Zimmerman handed No. 1 seed Moorhead a 4-2 defeat Saturday at home.

"Moorhead is a really talented team with a rich tradition," Elks coach Ben Gustafson said.

But 17 years as a member of the coaching staff gave Gustafson an idea that these Spuds were ripe for an upset.

"We weren't sure if they were built for it this year because of a lack of seniors," Gustafson said.

Just three seniors played for Moorhead this season. Elk River, meanwhile, dressed 10 seniors — four of whom offer an origin story as unlikely as the Spuds' section playoff loss.

Two seniors, Dylan Peterson and Mason Tell, were cut as sophomores before the 2021-22 season. Two others, Daniel Babcock and Hayden Jasper, opted to not try out as sophomores that season.

The Elks lost to Moorhead in the 2022 Section 8 final, but Gustafson received an encouraging text message afterward from Jasper, saying, "I really want to play in that game next year." The showdown never came as the Elks fell in the semifinals to Roseau, the prince of Section 8 after king Moorhead.

Babcock, who scored his team's fourth goal against the Spuds, combined with Jasper, Peterson and Tell for 14 goals and 25 assists this season — which began, coincidently enough, with a 6-2 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 28.

Beating the No. 1 seed, Gustafson said, does not make Elk River/Zimmerman the favorite in this unlikely section final.

"I met with our kids Monday and we talked about how our goal was to win the section tournament, not just to beat Moorhead," Gustafson said. "And now, we have to earn it against Buffalo."