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After one-year absence, Hill-Murray heads back to 2A state tournament

By PAUL HODOWANIC, Special to the Star Tribune, 02/14/20, 3:00PM CST

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First-period goals by Alex Belde and Nina Steigauf got the Pioneers rolling in a 3-1 section final victory over Stillwater

Hill-Murray's Alex Belde (3) gets off a pass while falling to the ice against Stillwater Friday night. Belde had two goals for the Pioneers in their 3-1 victory over the Pioneers at Aldrich Arena. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

Hill-Murray's Alex Belde (3) gets off a pass while falling to the ice against Stillwater Friday night. Belde had two goals for the Pioneers in their 3-1 victory over the Pioneers at Aldrich Arena. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

A year after missing the state tournament for the first time since 2012, the Hill-Murray girls’ hockey team is headed back to Xcel Energy Center.

The Pioneers topped Stillwater 3-1 in the Class 2A, Section 4 final at Aldrich Ice Arena in Maplewood on Friday to earn their ninth state tournament appearance since 2011, avenging a 2-0 loss to White Bear Lake in last year’s section final.

“It’s definitely a great feeling to get back,” Hill-Murray co-head coach Bill Schafhauser said. “You can never take it for granted.”

Hill-Murray's Nina Steigauf (11) carries the puck into the offensive zone against Stillwater Friday night. Steigauf had a goal and two assists in the Pioneers' 3-1 victory over the Ponies. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

Hill-Murray's Nina Steigauf (11) carries the puck into the offensive zone against Stillwater Friday night. Steigauf had a goal and two assists in the Pioneers' 3-1 victory over the Ponies. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

First report

A year after missing the state tournament for the first time since 2012, the Hill-Murray girls’ hockey team is headed back to Xcel Energy Center.

The Pioneers topped Stillwater 3-1 at Aldrich Ice Arena in Maplewood on Friday to clinch their ninth section championship and state tournament appearance since 2011.

Stillwater (21-6-1) played from behind for all but four minutes of the game. Hill-Murray (18-9-1) senior forward Alex Belde put the Pioneers up quickly in the first period and senior forward Nina Steigauf added another before the period was over to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

Belde added another in the second which was more than enough for senior goaltender Rachel Kennedy to work with.

Kennedy’s only goal allowed came midway through the third period as Stillwater’s Morgan Wohler found the back of the net. It was the first goal Kennedy had allowed in Hill-Murray’s three section games. She finished with 18 saves.

Hill-Murray returns to the state tournament looking for its first state championship since it won back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015.

Check back later for more on the game.

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