By D.J. Wanberg
The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville becomes the focus of area high school hockey this week as the final 16 teams of the Blackhawk Cup Red Division state tournament converge on the Chicago Blackhawks' practice facility.
Naperville Central and Neuqua Valley are among the 16 teams with the Wildcats taking the ice on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. Neuqua, a 12th seed, takes on fifth-seeded St. Rita.
Neuqua has faced St. Rita once this season, a 4-0 defeat to the Mustangs on Oct. 10 in the High School Invitational Tournament.
The winner moves forward to a Saturday, 3:15 p.m. quarterfinal game against the winner of the second game on Tuesday between No. 4 Stevenson and No. 20 Providence which sent No. 13 New Trier Blue home in a play-in game.
Meanwhile, Naperville Central, seeded 11th, faces No. 6 Barrington on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The Redhawks defeated the Broncos 4-1 on Nov. 29 in the HIT. Recently, Neuqua downed Barrington in the Scholastic Cup quarterfinals, 3-2.
A Redhawks victory puts them in a Sunday, 7:15 p.m. quarterfinal contest against either third-seeded Loyola Gold or No. 19 St. Viator.
The big question obviously is which teams leave The Edge after the March 11 semifinals en route to the Blackhawk Cup championship game on March 15 at the United Center?
Since Fenwick won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004 and New Trier Green winning from 1998-2002, there has been a different state champ each season with New Trier Green prevailing again in 2005, Glenbrook South in 2006 and Glenbrook North, this season's top seed, winning last year.
Who do you think will make it to the United Center and hoist the championship trophy?