Temperatures still are hovering around 50 degrees and football is hogging most of the high school headlines, so it's understandable if the beginning of the girls' hockey season might have snuck up on folks.
With game action already in its second week, here's a look at some teams and players to watch in the west metro:
BEST CLASS 2A TEAM
• Minnetonka: The Skippers are ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and are shooting for their third consecutive state championship. The Skippers lost only two players from last season's team, so their biggest problem might be getting enough playing time to satisfy the talent.
• Benilde-St. Margaret's: Perhaps the only team in the state that can match Minnetonka's talent.
• Edina: Plenty of scoring punch returns for the 2011 2A third-place winners.
• Eden Prairie: Veteran savvy in goal (McKenzie Johnson) and on defense (Tess Roehl).
BEST CLASS 1A TEAM
• Blake: With a lineup led by feisty, high-scoring forward Dani Cameranesi and most of their core returning, the Bears are stacked. Emotion is on their side, too, in their first year without beloved coach Brano Stankovsky, who died unexpectedly last April.
• Breck: Defending state champion is in its first year AMM (After Milica McMillen).
• Orono: Senior goalie Casey Hartfiel cures a lot of ills.
WEST DREAM TEAM
• Laura Bowman, Minnetonka, sr. (31-21-52)
• Dani Cameranesi, Blake, sr. (39-20-59)
• Kate Schipper, Breck, sr. (33-24-57)
• Also: Kelly Pannek, Benilde-St. Margaret's. jr.; Sarah Nielsen, Edina, sr.
• Kelsey Cline, Bloomington Jefferson, sr., (21-12-33)
• Liv Halvorson, Benilde-St. Margaret's, sr., (13-27-40)
• Also: Sidney Morin, Minnetonka, sr.; Jaci Reinke, Holy Family/Waconia, sr.
• McKenzie Johnson, Eden Prairie (9-9-4, .923 save pct.)
• Also: Bailey Plaman, Bloomington Jefferson, jr.
• Kaitlin Storo, Chaska/Chanhassen: The senior forward doesn't get the publicity of other west-metro stars, but her speed and quick hands helped her score 33 goals last season. One of five girls to participate in the Minnesota/Russia hockey exchange last month.
• Katie Rooney, Buffalo, sr., F (30-25-55)
• Corbin Boyd, Hopkins, so., F, (13-34-47)
• Dani Sibley, North Wright County, sr., F, (29-17-46)
GAME OF THE YEAR
• Benilde-St. Margaret's at Minnetonka, Dec. 18. Last season, Minnetonka defeated Benilde 2-1 in overtime in the Class 2A, Section 6 final. The ultra-talented Red Knights, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, would love a little payback.
• Blake at Breck, Dec. 1. This will be the two teams' second meeting in eight weeks. Expect emotions to run high.
• Edina at Roseville, Dec. 14: The Raiders ousted the Hornets in the Class 2A semifinals last season.
PREDICTING THE CONFERENCE RACES
• Lake: Minnetonka Darkhorse: Edina
• Mississippi 8: Buffalo Runner-up: North Wright County
• Northwest Suburban: Blaine Runner-up: Maple Grove.
• South Suburban: Lakeville North Runner-up: Eagan
• Tri-Metro: Blake Runner-up: Breck
• Wright County: Orono Runner-up: Mound-Westonka.