Last season the Northfield boys’ hockey team won its first conference title in 29 years, finishing tied with Rochester John Marshall. It has put itself in a position to go back-to-back.

The Raiders are unbeaten in Big 9 Conference play through eight games while the other 11 teams each have at least two losses. Northfield lost two conference games last season.

“As the schedule works out, there are a few teams you only play one time,’’ Raiders coach Mike Luckraft said, “and those games become critical four-point games.”

Northfield already has won two of those games, beating Austin 2-0 and Mankato East 3-2 in overtime.

“We were fortunate to win those games, which have given us a little lead in the standings,” Luckraft said. “There’s a long way to go before things really shake out.”

The one constant for Northfield is senior Ryan Bielenberg in goal. The Raiders are only averaging 3.4 goals per game while allowing 2.6.

“Ryan works really hard, has a great attitude, and is our on the ice leader,” Luckraft said. “He gives us a chance in every game, and that’s all you can ask of your goalie. The kid is fantastic in net.”

Top performances

• Apple Valley wrestler Gable Steveson won the heavyweight division in the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna, Wis. The junior, a two-time state champion, had six pins in under 10 total minutes.

• Burnsville girls’ hockey goaltender Riley Pester went 3-2-1 in a six-game stretch, allowing only nine goals. The sophomore made 29 saves in shutting out Champlin Park 2-0 and 22 stops in a 1-1 tie with Bloomington Jefferson during that span. The Blaze only had two victories before Pester got hot.

• Prior Lake forward Katie Huntington had five goals and one assist in an 8-4 victory over Eastview in a girls’ hockey matchup. The junior has 22 goals and seven assists this season.

Ron Haggstrom