The Shakopee girls hockey team has been knocking on the door the last few years.
Shakopee reached the section championship game two years ago and last year they finished in second place in the tough South Suburban Conference.
With just about its entire team back from last year, the Sabers think this can be the year for even bigger things.
“The team is expecting to compete for first place in the South Suburban Conference and again finish at the top of Section 2AA,” head coach Erin Hunt said.
Besides having a strong program, that optimism comes from the fact the Sabers return just about everybody from last year’s team that went 15-11-1 and reached the section semifinals.
The Sabers had 12 different players score last year and all but two of those players return for coach Hunt, including their top two goals scorers.
“Experience will be a strength,” Hunt said. “Most of our returning girls have played in tight games, big games, and close losses which will motivate us this year.”
Senior captain Paige McNeil returns after she had a team-high 19 goals for the Sabers last year. Olivia Grabianowski also returns after scoring 10 times last season.
If the Sabers are going to take that next step, they will have to improve on its goal scoring. In 25 games last year, Shakopee scored 59 goals and won nine, 1-goal games.
“We’ve continued to work on our offensive game and are expecting more production this season,” Hunt said.
Those two will lead a talented set of forwards while seniors Paige Peterson and captain Holly Eckers, along with junior Kenzie Bachelor will anchor the defense.
In net, the Sabers return Brianna Eastman and Sidney Hearn who split time last year.
“We will continue to be tough to play against defensively with a solid core of defense and goaltenders returning,” Hunt said.
Shakopee jumps right into South Suburban Conference play to open the season as they start the season with a game at Lakeville South on Thursday.
They follow that up with games against Burnsville and Prior Lake before an important section game against Holy Family.
Hunt said the Sabers should be right in the mix in the SSC along with favorites Eagan, Farmington and Rosemount.
In section play, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Holy Family along with Shakopee all have a shot.