Defending Class 1A state champion Orono could use a regular-season sweep of Mound Westonka to get a stranglehold on the top spot in Class 1A, Section 2.
But squeezing out a victory on Saturday may not come easy for the Spartans, who face a White Hawks team ready to show themselves as a legit section contender and leverage momentum heading into the postseason by knocking off their Wright County Conference (and regional) rival.
Based on QRF, Orono leads Mound-Westonka in the section standings, and the pressure is on both teams to win as Breck, which has won four of its last five, and Southwest Christian (five straight wins) are lurking in the wings after the Spartans and White Hawks have sputtered recently.
Orono is 1-2 in its last three games and 3-4 in its last seven, including a 4-3 home loss in overtime to Mound Westonka on Jan. 15. The White Hawks are 1-3-1 in their last five.
Seven Spartans were regular contributors in last year’s title run, and 20 current Orono players got varsity minutes last year, so the group isn’t completely lacking in crunch-time experience.
Finn Grandy — who allowed four goals on 25 shots in the overtime loss to Mound Westonka — and Charlie Carlson — who allowed three goals on 14 shots in a 9-3 win over Waconia on Jan. 18 — have been inconsistent in replacing graduated goaltender Evan Babekuhl, who got almost all the minutes in net last year. Sharing the workload has resulted in a 3.30 GAA for the No. 8-1A Spartans (12-8, 6-3), who average 3.95 goals for per game.
Mound Westonka was 19-7-1 before falling to a 9-19 Breck team in last year's section semifinals, and this year — in what might be a relatively open bracket — the White Hawks would like to see if they can reach their first section final since 2009.
Carter Hansen leads Mound Westonka (14-7-1, 4-4-1) in assists (15) and is tied for the points lead (23). He had a goal and set up Britt Courneya's overtime winner against Orono. It was the second goal of the game for Courneya (9-11-20), who is third on the team in scoring with 20 points on the season.