Without many common opponents, the Red Wing girls hockey team admits it doesn't know much about Alexandria, its first-round opponent in the Class 1A state tournament.
But with the team outscoring opponents 168-48 on the way to a 25-2 record and the No. 2 seed in the state tournament, the Wingers are focused on playing their game. Red Wing is back at state for the third straight year and the fourth time in five years, so why mess with success?
"We'll just lay out our style and make adjustments as the game goes on," Wingers head coach Scott Haley said. "We'll do the best we can."
The two teams open the Class 1A tournament at 11 a.m. today at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Ranked 17th in the state, the Cardinals (19-6-2) enter the state tournament after a 2-1 win in overtime over Fergus Falls in the Section 6A finals.
Leading Alexandria's offense is Shelby Iverson, who has 26 goals and 23 assists, and Becca Illies has 13 goals and 19 assists in 22 games. In net, the Cardinals use the goaltender tandem of Amy Jost and Bailey Serum, with Jost taking the bulk of the workload in the section playoffs.
Where the Wingers are hoping to assert themselves is in the first period. Red Wing has been dominant in the first 17 minutes, outscoring opponents 65-9. Meanwhile, Alexandria gave up 23 goals in the opening period.
"We definitely want to come out hard and fast and go from there," Wingers junior defenseman Hailee Johnson said. "We'll work our hardest from the beginning."
Scott Haley added, "(Assistant coach) Tony Casci, who watches our video, says most of our goals come in the first seven minutes of the period. ... We really want to assert some dominance right away."
The Wingers and Cardinals come in as two of the hottest teams in the Class 1A tournament. Alexandria is 13-1 in 2013, with its only loss coming against North Wright County, a state entrant in the Class 2A tournament. In that same stretch, Red Wing is 9-1, with the lone loss coming from New Prague, the team the Wingers beat to get back to the state tournament.
Since that loss to the Trojans on Jan. 15, Red Wing's offense has been nearly unstoppable, outscoring opposing teams 56-7.
"I actually think that loss was OK for us to have because it made us realize that we can lose," said sophomore forward Reagan Haley, who has 31 goals and a team-high 57 assists. "We needed to work harder and needed to change some things up and practice how we play in games. Practices got a lot better after that game."
Scott Haley said Red Wing enters state under different circumstances as one of the tournament favorites. While the No. 2 seed says otherwise, Reagan Haley said the team still has the mindset of an underdog playing with a chip on its shoulder.
"I think some of our girls still have that (underdog) mentality," she said. "We have to keep working really, really hard."
After avenging its loss against New Prague, Red Wing could have another chance to get revenge for its other loss in the semifinals against No. 3 seed Blake. The Bears, who beat the Wingers 4-2 on Dec. 15, 2012, open the tournament against Mound-Westonka.
But Alexandria comes first for Red Wing. From there, the Wingers' sights are set on winning the school's first girls hockey state championship.
"Since we've already been through (state) a couple times, you already know what it's like," Johnson said. "We can work and think of it as all business instead of just fun. We know how it feels to be up there."