Hill-Murray girls hockey off and running

The Hill-Murray High School girls hockey team won its first state championship in 2014 and as the defending champion started off the following season with back-to-back losses. The Pioneers bounced back from that start to win another title in 2015 and are off to a much different start this season.

Hill-Murray enters play this week with a 3-0 record and all three wins came against solid programs. That the Pioneers surrendered just two goals in the three games shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the defensive corps that they feature.

Hill’s defense includes three Division I-bound players in Kenzie Prater, Mekenzie Steffen and Rachel Herzog. Prater is headed out east to play in Connecticut at Quinnipiac University, Steffen has signed with Wisconsin and Herzog will join St. Cloud State.

That trio, along with the rest of the defensemen, should make things easier for Hill-Murray’s goaltending duo, which doesn’t have a slew of varsity experience.

“We have two talented goaltenders who will gain experience as they play more games,” said Hill-Murray head coach Bill Schafhauser, who is entering his ninth year.

Mari Johnson is a senior who went 3-0 while playing just over 200 minutes last season. Freshman Ava Bailey made her varsity debut in Hill-Murray’s second game.

Hill-Murray’s defensive trio is among nine seniors who have enjoyed plenty of success in their first three seasons. Schafhauser listed that veteran presence as another strength of this year’s squad.

“Leadership and experience through our large senior class,” Schafhauser said. “They have been to the state championship game the last three years in a row and won two.”

Senior forward Laura Anderson joins Prater as a senior captain and junior forward Lindsey Featherstone rounds out the Pioneers’ captain triumvirate.

Hill-Murray opened the season Nov. 10 with a match-up of the state’s two No. 1 teams. The Pioneers began the season No. 1 in Class AA and Blake is No. 1 in Class A. Hill won the game 3-1 behind two goals from Anderson and one from Prater. Jac Kaasa added two assists for the Pioneers, which also got helpers from Steffen, Haylee Blinkhorn and Abigail Boreen. Johnson made 22 saves in the victory.

The Pioneers followed up the Blake win with a 4-1 victory over fifth-ranked Eden Prairie. Boreen had a three-point night with a goal and two assists while Featherstone added a goal and an assist and Kate Smith tallied two assists. Steffen had the other goal while Taylor Wemple, Kaasa and Erica Steigauf added single assists. Bailey made 15 saves to earn her first varsity win.

Hill-Murray played just once last week but made it count by blitzing 11th-ranked Lakeville North 9-0. Ten different Pioneers had a point with big games coming from Featherstone and Boreen. They both tallied four points as Boreen scored twice and added two assists and Featherstone had a goal and three assists. Steffen added a three-point performance with two goals and an assist.

Johnson needed only 10 saves to pick up the shutout.

Hill-Murray has another light week game-wise with only one contest on the docket. The Pioneers head back down to Lakeville to take on the Cougars from Lakeville South on Saturday afternoon. Next week marks the start of Metro East Conference play as Hill-Murray visits Mahtomedi on Dec. 1 and hosts Simley on Dec. 4.

Former Pioneer adds to Gophers record book

Former Hill-Murray High School standout Hannah Brandt is playing in her final season with the University of Minnesota’s women’s hockey team and recently added her name to the Golden Gophers record book.

Brandt, the 2012 Ms. Hockey winner and Gophers co-captain, became Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer with a five-goal effort on Nov. 14 against Bemidji State. She passed former Gopher and Olympian Natalie Darwitz for first place in total points.

The five goals also tied the school record for goals in a single game, which is also held by Nadine Muzerall. Coincidentally, Muzerall also had her five-goal game against Bemidji State.

Brandt is also Minnesota’s all-time leader in assists. She passed Darwitz in that category last weekend in a series sweep of Yale.

Through last weekend, Brandt’s career totals are 106 goals and 147 assists for 253 points. 

Minnesota’s all-time career goals record is 139 by Muzerall. That one will be tough for Brandt to get as she needs 34 more goals and her single-season high goal total is 34, which she accomplished last season.

Brandt and the Gophers are back in action this weekend with a two-game series at Minnesota State-Mankato on Friday and Saturday. Both games face off at 2:07 p.m.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

2015-16 Hill-Murray High School girls hockey schedule
Nov. 10    vs. Blake                7:30 p.m.
Nov. 14    vs. Eden Prairie            2:30 p.m.
Nov. 20    at Lakeville North        7 p.m.
Nov. 28    at Lakeville South        2:45 p.m.
Dec. 1    at Mahtomedi            7:30 p.m.
Dec. 4    vs. Simley                7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7    at Henry Sibley            7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9    vs. Edina                7:30 p.m.
Dec. 18    vs. Centennial            7:30 p.m.
Dec. 19    at Dodge County            3 p.m.
Dec. 20    vs. Stillwater            7:30 p.m.
Dec. 31    at Kaposia Classic        TBA
Jan. 1    at Kaposia Classic        TBA
Jan. 2    at Kaposia Classic        TBA
Jan. 5    at South St. Paul            7 p.m.
Jan. 8    vs. Hastings            7:30 p.m.
Jan. 9    vs. Chaska                2:30 p.m.
Jan. 12    vs. Mahtomedi            7:30 p.m.
Jan. 15    vs. North/Tartan            7:30 p.m.
Jan. 16    at Maple Grove            7 p.m.
Jan. 19    at Hastings                7 p.m.
Jan. 23    vs. Wayzata                2:30 p.m.
Jan. 26    at North/Tartan            7:30 p.m.
Jan. 29    vs. South St. Paul        7:30 p.m.
Jan. 30    at Benilde-St. Margaret’s    2:30 p.m.

Let’s Play Hockey/Associated Press Class AA state girls hockey rankings (Released Nov. 18)
1 – Hill-Murray
2 – Minnetonka
3 – Edina
4 – Wayzata
5 – Eden Prairie
6 – Blaine
7 – Maple Grove
8 – Lakeville South
9 – Elk River/Zimmerman
10 – Cretin-Derham Hall
11 – Lakeville North
12 – Roseau
13 – Chaska/Chanhassen
14 – Dodge County
15 – Buffalo
16 – Centennial
17 – Mounds View
18 – Stillwater
19 – White Bear Lake
20 – Spring Lake Park/Coon Rapids


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