Owatonna’s Sydney Hunst (3) brings the puck up the ice against Albert Lea earlier this season at the Four Seasons Centre. The Huskies take on Faribault in a battle of the conference’s second place teams on Saturday. (Jon Weisbrod/People’s Press)

Faribault’s girls hockey team is 15-3 this season (and 11-2 in the Big 9 Conference) heading into a pivotal showdown against Owatonna (11-5 overall, 11-1 Big 9) on Saturday evening. The Falcons host the game, which is set to start at 7 p.m. at the Faribault Ice Arena.

Recent results: The Falcons have had the week off as they gear up for the final two weeks of the regular season. They were last in action Jan. 10 when they suffered a tough 4-0 defeat at the hands of Class A’s ninth-ranked team, Rochester Lourdes. Prior to that, Faribault had won six in a row and was particularly dominant in an 11-1 beatdown of Albert Lea on Jan. 7.

Owatonna has been red hot over its last three games; it crushed Rochester Century 8-0 on Jan. 9, blew out Rochester Mayo 13-0 on Saturday and steamrolled past Mankato East 9-0 on Tuesday evening. Yes, you read that right: that’s three shutouts in a row, and the Huskies outscored their opponents 30-0 in those three games.

Owatonna’s last loss was against a shared opponent to Faribault — Rochester Lourdes. The Eagles beat the Huskies 5-3 in Owatonna on Jan. 7.

Recent history: The Falcons and Huskies met once earlier this season, with Owatonna prevailing 5-4 in overtime on Dec. 10. The stakes are higher this time around, with Owatonna and Faribault tied for second in the Big Nine Conference standings with 26 points, although the Falcons have played an extra game. Both teams are trailing Northfield, as the Raiders are undefeated in conference action with 32 points.

1. Faribault has outscored its opponents 109-29 in 18 games this season, including by a 39-4 margin in the first period alone. The Falcons have excelled when they score early, and also when they attempt more shots on the goal than their opponents. This wasn’t the case in their previous game against Owatonna, as the Huskies outshot the Falcons in every single period. The final tally was 44 shots for Owatonna and 27 for Faribault, and the Huskies scored the game-winning goal just 1:48 into the overtime period.

2. One of Faribault’s biggest strengths is its deep offense. A total of 11 Falcons have scored at least one goal this season, with four reaching double digits. Olivia Williamson leads the way with 31 goals — the third most in the state — followed by Abigail Goodwin with 20, Haley Lang with 13 and Rylie Starkson with 10. Ashley Rost is close to joining them, with nine goals scored in 17 games played, and Isabelle Stephes has surged lately. Stephes scored goals in three straight games in mid-December and had her best game of the season when she scored three goals against Albert Lea on Jan. 7. If the Falcons’ offense is firing on all cylinders Saturday, the Huskies will have their work cut out for them.

3. Owatonna has outscored its opponents 97-27 this season, including by a 31-4 margin in the first period. The Huskies are led by freshman Ezra Oien, who has 22 goals — the second-highest total for a Minnesota freshman. That’s followed by Olivia Herzog with 13 and as a total of 16 players having scored at least one goal for OHS, as well as three other players who have seen significant playing time and nearly a dozen others available off the bench.

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