Benilde players celebrated a 3rd period goal by Brittany Wheeler. (Star Tribune photo by Marlin Levison)
Dave Herbst, coach of Benilde-St. Margaret's top-ranked girls' hockey team, didn't mince words before Saturday's game at No. 6 Hill-Murray.
"I tried to get them fired up by telling them, 'You know what, we're No. 1 in the state right now,'" Herbst said. "I told them, 'We've got to have that mentality that we're going to work. We've got a lot of talent, but we can't just show up.'"
Failing to heed the message for much of the first period, the Red Knights got down a goal but regrouped for a 5-2 victory on the road at Aldrich Arena.
Junior forward Caitlin Reilly scored twice and added an assist as the Red Knights won their seventh consecutive game. Last week, Benilde-St. Margaret's earned the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A for the second time this season. A loss to two-time defending state champion Minnetonka ended the first run. Reilly said her team wants to make the second one last.
"We've been working hard the past few weeks trying to claim the No. 1 spot so this was a big win for us," Reilly said. "As the game progressed I think we got better."
Hill-Murray freshman forward Mikayla Jones gave the home team a 1-0 lead at 10 minutes, 32 seconds of the first period. The Red Knights built a 2-1 lead with goals from Brittany Wheeler and Reilly in the last two minutes of the opening period.
The Pioneers tied the score 2-2 early in the second period on a great individual effort from freshman Laura Anderson. She carried a Red Knights defenseman on her hip before getting free and firing a shot past goaltender Abigail Miller.
Junior forward Kelly Pannek broke the tie and put Benilde-St. Margaret's ahead to stay with a pretty shorthanded, breakaway goal in the second period.
"I think we showed our age today, our inexperience," Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser said. "We started off fine but then made some mistakes. They're good, but we're better than that."
The Red Knights played without senior defenseman Liv Halvorson, out since late December because of a concussion suffered in a car accident. Herbst said Halvorson, an All Metro third-team selection as a junior, is day-to-day and he hopes she will return for the approaching playoffs.