With a postseason beginning in less than two weeks, the Stillwater girls’ hockey team wore special sweaters Saturday for a special occasion.
Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.
Donning throwback uniforms to the 2007 state champions, the current Ponies continued what could very well be a deep postseason run by beating White Bear Lake 8-3 as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2023 at chilly Polar Lakes Park in White Bear Lake.
Brooke Nelson had a natural hat trick in the first period as part of her four-goal morning, Hunter Reardon scored twice and Josie Lang had a goal and two assists for Stillwater. Josie St. Martin had a goal and assist.
“We had a goal at the start of the season to go undefeated in the conference, and this was the final step getting to that goal,” said Avery Braunshausen. “Being able to play on Hockey Day in Minnesota on such a big platform is another big thing for us to showcase our team.”
They hope it’s just a start.
Winners of seven straight — allowing just eight goals in the process — and ranked No. 9 in the latest Class 2A poll, Stillwater (18-4, 16-0 Suburban East) finishes with three measuring stick games next week. The Ponies are scheduled to face Gentry Academy, Edina and Andover, each ranked in the state’s top five.
All Ponies’ losses are to Top 10 teams, the last 5-3 to Gentry Academy Dec. 29.
“It’s go time and they know it,” said coach Annie Cashman. “Josie looked at me yesterday at practice and she goes, ‘I think we’re playing really well, and I think we have a really good shot at the whole thing.’ I was, ‘One hundred percent I agree with you.’ ”
Players from both sides didn’t seem to care much that the game-time temperature was 0 degrees.
“I was hot; I was playing a lot and the benches were warm. We had a lot of energy, so it was fun,” said the Amanda Smythe, who had two goals for the Bears.
“From all the skating I wasn’t even cold,” Nelson said.
Eighth-grader Elaina Hosfield scored her first career goal on a rebound to give White Bear Lake (8-15, 4-11) an early 1-0 lead. “It made me happy that I scored on Hockey Day and it wasn’t just a regular game,” she said. “It was really special.”
Reardon tied it three minutes later. Nelson then scored three straight for a 4-1 lead. The junior scored off a scramble at 8:59, redirected a shot from Lang for a power play tally less than two minutes later, and went far top corner with a seeing-eye wrist shot from the right circle at 13:45.
“It was perfect. It just went our way,” said Nelson. “It was definitely a team win. Everybody was out there working hard. Everyone was just so excited, and we had a lot of energy coming into this game,” she said.
Her fourth consecutive goal came 7:15 into the second period, a wrister from near the left dot. She entered the contest with 12 goals, including one-goal outings in her three previous games.
Cashman is friends with a couple of Division I coaches. They’ve asked why Nelson hasn’t committed.
“She’s a soccer star. This is just her part-time job,” Cashman said with a laugh. “She is an absolute athlete and she’s such a great kid. … I kind of call her a throwback. She wants zero attention, she wants zero accolades, she just wants to be here for her sisters and go out and play.”
Nelson had 14 goals and 15 assists for the Stillwater girls’ soccer team last fall.
It was just the second loss in six games for the Bears, who dug too deep of a hole early.
“We didn’t perform like we could have, but we brought it back up, tried to keep rolling,” Smythe said. “We just tried to have fun.”