Minnetonka forward Laura Bowman, left, battles Benilde-St. Margaret defender Mekenzie Steffen for the puck on while Minnetonka forward Amy Petersen skates in position.
As young girls, Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen held a birthday party for their entire collection of stuffed Beanie Babies.
"We decided they all had same birthday even though it said on the tags they had different ones," Bowman said.
Later this week, the two highest-scoring players in Minnetonka girls' hockey history hope to throw a celebration of more historic proportions.
No. 1 seed Minnetonka, featuring seven Division I players, is favored to become the first girls' hockey team to win three consecutive state tournament titles.
The four-day tournament, beginning Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, starts five weeks of high school winter state tournaments in the metro area that will crown 21 team champions in eight sports and dozens of individuals in three sports.
If the past is any indication, senior forwards Bowman and Petersen, who will further their friendship and hockey careers at Penn State, will play key roles in the Class 2A girls' hockey state tournament.
They are a sisterhood within a sisterhood. The girls met in preschool, loved playing dress up and wearing the same outfits. It wasn't hard. Playing on the same line throughout youth hockey gave them plenty of matching hockey apparel.
"If anyone split us up, it didn't last long," said Petersen, a left wing on lines centered by Bowman.
Said Skippers' goaltender Sydney Rossman: "They have some weird connection on the ice. They always know where the other one is."
Their connection fueled their production. Bowman (102 goals, 88 assists) ranks first in program history with 190 points. Peterson (67-114) is second with 181.
Often overshadowed by Minnetonka's talented defensemen and goaltenders, Bowman and Petersen reintroduce themselves in the playoffs with clutch goals.
Petersen clinched the Skippers' first state title in 2011 with a late goal in the championship game. A year later she scored in overtime of the state semifinals.
Bowman came up big in the past two Section 6 championship victories against Benilde-St. Margaret's. She assisted on both goals as Minnetonka won in overtime last season. Last week she completed a stirring Skippers' comeback with the eventual game-winning goal.
"I think they are underrated," Minnetonka coach Eric Johnson said. "They have accomplished as much or more than any other player as far as leading their team, winning games and winning championships. The fact that they score the big goals says a lot about their character."
Asked to scout her longtime linemate, Petersen said Bowman plays with speed, gets to the net and buries pucks at key moments. Bowman credited Petersen for her rink vision, hustle and accurate shot.
"She can pick any corner, any time," Bowman said.
The duo picked Penn State, but their focus is on the hockey games at hand and fulfilling Minnetonka's state championship aspirations.
"We are not ready to become Nittany Lions yet," Bowman said. "We want to stay Skippers as long as we possibly can.
"We have a bond that's unbreakable and we're so happy for everything we've been able to experience together," she said. "We wouldn't want it any other way."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574