Puck Drop
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Welcome back, hockey fans, to our inaugural Puck Drop Sweet Sweaters competition. We’ve received photos of fans’ favorite hockey jerseys and the stories that accompany them, and narrowed the field to 16 for an NCAA-style tournament.

We have four regionals named after Minnesota hockey legends – Brooks, Sandelin, Ikola and Darwitz/Wendell. So far, we’ve played out the Sandelin and Darwitz/Wendell Regionals, with two emerging to the Sweet Sweaters Fabulous Four: a 1960 U.S. Olympic jersey worn by gold-medalist Rod Paavola and submitted by his son, Boyd, emerging as the winner; and a beer league championship team named the Mastodons submitted by Tom Mclaughlin.

Today, we’re playing the Ikola Regional. The tournament commissioner, Puck Drop editor Randy Johnson, picked the field and seeded the regionals. The Puck Drop team also consists of editors Joe Christensen and Jim Foster, and they’ll join Randy in voting on which entries advance to the Fabulous Four.

Ikola Regional

1. Minnesota Warriors, Michael Ullmer and Roger Fredsall vs. 4. Minnesota State purple road jerseys, @BobblinMavs

Story lines: Both Michael and Roger submitted a Minnesota Warriors sweater, representing the program for wounded, injured or otherwise disabled veterans of the U.S. military. “These jerseys are still a stand out when we play with other teams within the state,’’ Michael said. … Minnesota State superfan @BobblinMavs submitted several Mavericks sweaters, and the purple road version stands out. “The Mavericks have had many attempts at their road jerseys over the years, and then they finally hit on excellence,’’ Bobblin said. “… Overall, I can't think of a better way to display MSU's hockey team when hitting the road.’’

Winner: Minnesota Warriors, 2-1

Randy’s vote: As much as I like those purple Mavs look – one of the best in college hockey -- I have to go with the Warriors and their perseverance.

Joe’s vote: Love that Warriors sweater, but I have a soft spot for the Mavs, especially after their latest jersey re-design.

Jim’s vote: The Mavericks jersey reminds me of the Vikings’ Color Rush jerseys, and how much I don’t like them. And while I think the Mavericks do it better, I’ll still go with the Warriors sweater, which makes camo actually work.

2. Avangard Omsk, Paul Brecheisen vs. 3. Toronto Maple Leafs Johnny Bower, John Mosey

Story lines: Paul lived in Russia for 22 years, and this jersey from the Kontinental Hockey League brings bittersweet memories. It’s the No. 7 of Alexei Cherepanov, the New York Rangers prospect who died of heart failure in 2008 after collapsing on the bench during a game. The defibrillator at the rink was non-functional, and the ambulance on site had left the game early. … John is a longtime Maple Leafs fan who lived in Toronto. He bought this jersey at a silent auction, and it’s signed by Johnny Bower, the Hall of Famer who was the last goalie to backstop the Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup title in 1967.

Winner: Avangard Omsk, 2-1

Randy’s vote: Both of these sweaters have great stories behind them. I’m giving a slight nod to Avangard Omsk. Brings back memories of Sergei Zholtok’s death in Belarus.

Joe’s vote: Big fan of the Leafs’ blue jersey anyway, and the autograph from a Hall of Famer seals it.

Jim’s vote: Two sentimental stories battle it out (Cherepanov’s tragic death vs. a piece of the Leafs’ last Cup win). I’m a big fan of Toronto’s simple blue and white color scheme, but this time I’m going Avangard.

Regional final

1. Minnesota Warriors vs. 4. Avangard Omsk

Winner: Minnesota Warriors, 3-0

Randy’s vote: The Warriors are a No. 1 seed for plenty of great reasons. They advance.

Joe’s vote: That sharp-looking Warriors sweater, and the back story will make it tough to beat at the Fabulous Four.

Jim’s vote: Both jerseys honor worthy people with deserving stories, so it comes down to looks. To me both designs are busy, but I’ll go with the one that’s intentionally busy (aka camo) – the Warriors.

Next time, we’ll play our final regional, the Brooks Regional, to complete the Fabulous Four.