The Cambridge-Isanti Blue Jackets have, consistently, been the odd-man out in the race for the Mississippi 8 Conference.
The Jackets have been close, but each of the past five seasons either North Wright County or Buffalo has been able to keep the club at bay, skating to the conference title.
It looks like this year will be no different.
The RiverHawks dominated Tuesday night's battle, getting seven goals from six different players en route to a 7-1 victory.
The BlueJackets had just defeated Rogers to move into third place in the conference. The win now tightens NWC's grip on first place, with wins in hand over both Cambridge and Buffalo.
"They have a nice team," said head coach Tim Hanson, "but we came up big. The girls finally found the net and played up to their ability, as a team. It's a good time for us to keep going in this direction."
Indeed, with about a month to go in the season, the Hawks have statement wins over two conference rivals, have a win in hand over Section 8 rival Roseau, and get the Bison at home before the season is out.
Added to that is the offensive play of veterans like Dani Sibley, and youth like Paige Voight, leading a solid attack. Meanwhile, goalie Amanda Koep has found her groove in net, picking up three wins in her last three starts, allowing just two goals.
Monticello's Sam Pitts had the key goal Tuesday (as a captain should, Hanson said) getting a rebound on a shot frm STMA"s Halie Gudmonson.
"It was a game-changer for us. They were up 1-0 and it was getting pretty late there in the first period. It was the spark we needed to get going," Hanson said.
"We're going to get everyone's best challenge because of what we've done and what we did last year," Pitts said. "They'll be coming after us all year."
Koep said she doesn't mind being part of the frontrunner.
"That's pressure, but we play well with pressure," she said. "I think we're all kind of used to that now."
The Hawks host Orono at the Moose Sherritt Ice Arena in Monticello tomorrow night.
With Friday the 13th, it's a perfect time to rally for Jack Jablonski of Benilde-St. Margaret's, who wore No. 13.
Game time is 7 p.m. at the Moose.