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Ponies, Skippers Clash in Outdoor Battle

Stillwater and Minnetonka's girls programs each bring state titles and storied history to Hockey Day

by Devin Lowe / Wild.com

History will be made when the Stillwater Ponies (7-12-0) host the Minnetonka Skippers (9-7-3) under the lights at Lowell Park on Jan. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

It will be a rematch of Hockey Day Minnesota 2009, where Minnetonka faced off against Stillwater at Phalen Park in St. Paul. The Ponies took that game 2-1, and they also won it all in the MSHSL State Tournament that year, securing their second championship in program history.

Minnetonka hosted Hockey Day in 2012, but warm weather forced the day's games indoors, where the Skippers beat Hopkins by a score of 5-1.

That same year, like Stillwater in 2009, Minnetonka would also go on to win the MSHSL State Tournament, a championship sandwiched between two others in 2011 and 2013. Though the team looks different now, they're ranked eighth in the state, offering a formidable challenge to their Stillwater hosts.

"Minnetonka is having a good year, and it will be another huge test for our team," said Stillwater head coach Lee Gillespie. "We play a very tough schedule, so we've seen a lot of great teams so far and look at it as just another challenge."

The Ponies have a history of excellence, too. Their other state title was in 2007, and though they are currently not ranked, they've beaten a few strong teams in that tough schedule, including conference-leading Cretin-Durham Hall and 12-5-2 Forest Lake.

To beat Minnetonka, defense will be key, said Gillespie.

"We really want to focus on the things our team needs to do to be successful regardless of who we play," Gillespie said. "We focus on the defensive side of the game and try to create offense by limiting other teams' time in our offensive zone."

Minnetonka has a few standout offensive performers, including senior Emma Bigham, who's collected 25 points in 19 games. Stillwater's offense is more balanced, and the Ponies have a strong goaltender in junior Olivia Knox, who's put up a .919 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average in 14 games played.

The Skippers' power play is also dangerous at a conversion percentage of 28.1.

No matter the outcome of the game, both teams are looking forward to the thrill of playing in Hockey Day Minnesota and all that it entails, including special jerseys and the opportunity to play on TV. 

"It's the honor that they asked us to play in this amazing opportunity," said Minnetonka senior Sarah McDonell. "Of all the teams, we get the honor to be able to play in this amazing event, which is so surreal. I still can't really believe it's happening."

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