To the fashion conscious, green and orange clash and should never be paired.
When talking the tradition-rich Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake boys’ hockey rivalry, the former is true. These programs don’t like one another. But the latter is absurd. And here on the Star Tribune’s new Puck Drop blog, we’ll explain why. Bottom line: The Class 2A, Section 4 final goes to another level when the Pioneers and Bears mix it up.
And hallelujah they meet again, at 7 p.m. Friday at Aldrich Arena, located just across the St. Paul border in Maplewood. With a giant parking lot next door where several generations of East Siders practiced driving and parallel parking.
Friday marks the 24th postseason meeting of Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake in 36 seasons dating back to 1983-84. They clashed 15 times in section finals. And Hill-Murray won 11 of them, including last season. (Thanks Jim Just at hmpioneers.net)
“This rivalry is bigger than anyone in it,” White Bear Lake coach Tim Sager said. “It’s extra special and hard to explain.”
Then Sager offered a perfect explanation:
“One of our assistant coaches ran into a guy at Dunkin’ Donuts this morning, a guy who hasn’t played hockey in 40 years. And he says, ‘It’s our year.’”
White Bear Lake is the No. 1 seed, Hill-Murray is No. 2. The Bears edged the Pioneers 3-2 back on Dec. 22.
Just getting to Friday’s final reflects well on both programs. Graduation and a key early departure seemed to decimate White Bear Lake. But the Bears have won 20 games and ranked in the top-10 most of the season. Meanwhile, Hill-Murray, with a roster devoid of Division I college-bound studs, won its two previous section games in overtime.
“It’s testament to both programs,” Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said. “Both teams have been battle-tested to prepare themselves for this opportunity.”
The Pioneers seek a second-consecutive (and 30th overall) trip to state. White Bear Lake’s last appearance came in 2011, a season I spent embedded with Hill-Murray and wrote a well-received four-part series. Shameless plug, I know. But do have a read.
Between overtime periods during his team’s eventual 5-4 loss to White Bear Lake in the Section4 title game all those years ago, Lechner told his players, “It's supposed to be us and White Bear Lake. It's supposed to be overtime.”
Our 51 hours of fury ends at Aldrich Arena with Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake playing hard to the final horn or final goal. That’s the Section 4 final at its best.
“Everybody believes it should be Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake,” Lechner said. “Throw away the records because it should come down to a moment.”