Blaine vs. Proctor/Hermantown

3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18

Sure, feasting on a schedule of cupcakes might offer short-term satisfaction. But in the long haul it’s a proven fact that gaudy win-loss records guarantee absolutely nothing come playoff time.

Enter Blaine and Proctor/Hermantown, teams that on the surface seemingly have nothing in common. Blaine is a metro area school that plays in Class 2A. Proctor/Hermantown hails from the Duluth suburbs and is a Class 1A program. Take a deeper look at the teams’ schedules, however, and similarities start to take shape.

Andover, Blake, Edina, Hill-Murray … both Blaine and Proctor/Hermantown take a long-term approach when it comes to scheduling a Murderers' Row lineup of opponents. Blaine is required to play Andover twice, given the teams both reside in the Northwest Suburban Conference. But the ever-ambitious Bengals added a third meeting with the Huskies, who have spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in the Class 2A coaches’ poll.

Blaine and Proctor/Hermantown’s midling records are a reflection of their torturous scheduling. The Bengals (11-7-0, 6-4-0) have been so-so in Northwest Suburban play, while Proctor/Hermantown (11-8-0, 2-1-0), No. 6 in the Class 1A coaches’ poll from Jan. 8, seems to finally be gaining momentum.

Given these teams reputations for scouring the state for tough competition, it’s only fitting they cross paths on Saturday in our Top Game of the Week.

The Bengals enter the week saddled with a three-game losing streak after falling to No. 6-2A Maple Grove (4-1 on Jan. 7), No. 1-2A Edina (4-1 on Jan. 9) and No. 2-2A Andover (5-0 on Jan. 11). Proctor/Hermantown, meanwhile, has won for of its last five, with its last loss coming to Andover 5-2 on Jan. 1.

Blaine relies on the superb goaltending of freshman Hailey Hansen, who has played every minute for the Bengals while posting a .925 save percentage. Sophomore Dani Brunette is the team’s top scorer with 21 points on 11 goals and 10 assists.

Juniors Alyssa Watkins and Michaela Phinney each have 14 goals to pace Proctor/Hermantown.