Hill-Murray (23-2), ranked No. 1 in the latest Let's Play Hockey newspaper poll, also boasts a player widely considered the state's finest in senior forward Hannah Brandt (right).
Hill-Murray girls' hockey coach Bill Schafhauser remembers the confident looks worn by Stillwater's players, a group that ended his first two seasons with the Pioneers in the section playoff semifinals.
He still sees those confident faces, but now they are in his own locker room.
The Pioneers escaped the state's most challenging field, Class 2A, Section 4, last season and take the No. 1 seed into the playoffs, which begin this week.
"We've got some of that moxie ourselves," Schafhauser said.
The Pioneers (23-2), ranked No. 1 in the latest Let's Play Hockey newspaper poll, also boast a player widely considered the state's finest in senior forward Hannah Brandt. But they also must do battle in a section that includes No. 14 Stillwater, No. 12 White Bear Lake and No. 5 Roseville, which features Ms. Hockey semifinalists Hanna Brodt and Lee Stecklein and Senior Goalie of the Year semifinalist Erika Allen.
"Every one of those teams is tough and would love to knock us off," Schafhauser said.
Class 2A, Section 5
A note to any player who scores in the Class 2A, Section 5 playoffs: Keep the puck because it won't happen much.
Four of the teams seeded in the top six are anchored by a Let's Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year semifinalist: No. 1 Anoka's Katie McLain, No. 2 Andover's Madison Denny, No. 5 Blaine's Tara Hoverstad and No. 6 Irondale's Gillian McDonald.
Class 2A, Section 6
Time will tell if No. 1 seed Benilde-St. Margaret's, a team brimming with top young forwards, is all grown up. But the Red Knights are at least at full strength with sophomore Caitlin Reilly back from a broken ankle.
Defending section and state champion Minnetonka, the No. 2 seed, remains potent, though the Red Knights beat the Skippers 2-0 in December.
Class 1A, Section 5
Top-ranked and top-seeded Breck looks to win a third consecutive section title. Orono holds the No. 2 seed, one spot ahead of Blake. But the past four section title games featured Breck vs. Blake.