The First National Cup state high school hockey tournament begins Thursday in Wasilla with four games at the Menard Center, all of them featuring an Anchorage team.
West, the surprise runner-up at the Cook Inlet Conference championships, gets things started at noon with a game against Juneau. Both teams are coming off losses — West fell to South 3-1 in the CIC title game, and Juneau lost to West Valley 3-2 in the Mid-Alaska Conference championship game.
West Valley takes on Dimond at 2:30 p.m. Dimond, which went through the CIC's regular season with only two losses, is the conference's No. 4 seed after overtime playoffs losses to West, which beat the Lynx 3-2 in a double-OT semifinal game, and Service, which upset them 4-3 in the third-place game.
At 5 p.m., CIC champion South — the runner-up at last year's state tournament — takes on Colony. Both were the top seeds going into their respective conference tournaments, but only South claimed a conference title. Colony's run at a fourth straight North Star Conference title was foiled by Wasilla, which beat the Knights 4-3 in the championship game.
Thursday's final first-round game is a showdown between teams that pulled off upsets on their way to state — Service and Wasilla.
Service, which finished the regular season as the CIC's fifth-place team with a 6-8 record, knocked off defending state champion Chugiak 8-1 in the first round of the CIC tournament. The Cougars lost their semifinal game against South 4-0 but bounced back in the third-place game, using an overtime goal from Landon Hill — his second goal of the game — to upset Dimond.
The Warriors, meanwhile, finished third in the North Star regular-season standings but are the conference's top seed at state thanks to their title-game victory over Colony.
Action runs Thursday through Saturday at the Menard Center, with Saturday's championship game scheduled for 5 p.m.
Since the start of the state hockey tournament in 1983, Anchorage teams have won all but four championships. Lathrop won three (2009, 1987, 1986) and Palmer won one (1989).
All of the Anchorage teams in this year's tournament are past champions. Service has won eight state titles, its last in 2004; Dimond has won seven, its last in 2013; South has won six, its last in 2014; and West has won three, including two straight in 2016 and 2015.
First National Cup hockey tournament
Noon — West vs. Juneau
2:30 p.m. — Dimond vs. West Valley
5 p.m. — South vs. Colony
7:30 p.m. — Service vs. Wasilla