A few girls hockey teams have started the year undefeated or notched impressive early victories. There's a long way to go until the playoffs begin in February, but these teams have earned the right to dream state tournament dreams. Here's a snapshot of the season's first month and a look at what's to come.
In Class 2A, Minnetonka raced to a 5-0 start. Three more victories and the Skippers will equal the number of Division I-bound players on their ridiculously talented roster. How deep yet unselfish is Minnetonka? Both junior goaltenders, Ashlyn Hazlett (Bemidji State) and Layla Hemp (Minnesota), made verbal commitments to Division I college programs.
Add to this talent mix a touch of motivation. The Skippers lost both the semifinals and the third-place game at state in 2023 — a thud of an ending to a promising season.
"We have a lot of returners that know what it's like to play in state and come up short, giving us experience and a chip on our shoulders," senior forward Lindzi Avar told The Breakdown Sports Media.
Emerging from Section 2 is no sure thing, either. Minnetonka, ranked No. 1 in the latest Let's Play Hockey poll, must take care of No. 9 Holy Family and No. 17 Eden Prairie.
Another tradition-rich program stung by recent shortcomings is Hill-Murray. The Pioneers dropped the past two Section 4 finals to upstart Gentry Academy. This season, Johnny and Krissy Pohl are the bench bosses. Hill-Murray's activities director and enrollment manager, respectively, they have the program off to a 4-0 start and No. 3 ranking. The Pohls previously coached together at Cretin-Derham Hall.
As for Gentry Academy, the defending Class 2A state champion, a new head coach plus the loss of seniors who provided 84% of the goal scoring and both goaltenders resulted in an 0-3 start to this season — though each game was close.
Holy Angels, this week's No. 1-ranked team in Class 1A, is 4-0-1 and can claim a victory over defending state tournament champion Warroad and a tie with No. 4 Proctor-Hermantown.
Speaking of Holy Angels, the Stars play Mound Westonka/Southwest Christian on Thursday, followed by Orono on Saturday. All three of these programs have something in common: coach Larry Olimb.
Not long after resigning from the Orono job there after criticism of his coaching by parents, Olimb accepted an assistant coaching position at Holy Angels in Richfield. He ultimately never worked with the Stars program because the Mound Westonka/Southwest Christian job became available. The return to head coach status eased a tumultuous offseason for Olimb, a prominent name in Minnesota hockey.
Olimb's team is ranked eighth despite a 3-0 loss at Orono. A potential rematch awaits in the Section 5 playoffs.
And watch out for Breck. The Mustangs are riding high again at 6-0 after winning a combined 12 games the past two seasons.