Pioneer Hockey History

[ 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 ]
[ 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 ]

[ 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 ]
[ 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 ]
[ 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 ]
[ 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 ]

--- Historical rosters and scores researched by Jim Just ---

Video Highlights

Team records

All-time roster

Olympians, pro, & college alumni

Year-by-year summary

Results vs. opponents

Results by location

Miscellaneous stats


Highlights

  • 3 MSHSL and 2 independent state championships
  • 8 MSHSL state runner-up and 27 state tournament appearances (1975-2016)
  • 5 independent state runner-up and 13 state tournament appearances (1961-1974)
  • 40 conference championships

A Short History of Hill-Murray Hockey

Pioneer hockey embarks on its 50th season in 2009-10. One year after Hill High School opened its doors in 1959, varsity athletic programs began and student athletes have been donning the green and white jerseys ever since. If round numbers signify anything, here are three: by the end of season 50, roughly 500 young men will have participated in Pioneer hockey and their combined efforts will have won approximately 1,000 games.

Since the late 1960s, Hill-Murray teams have enjoyed on-ice success unparalleled in the St. Paul area and among the best in all of Minnesota. Twice a state champion before private schools were integrated into the high school league in 1974, Hill-Murray teams have since qualified for 27 state tournaments and won three more state championships.

The trophies are but one part, though, of the larger community that is Hill-Murray hockey. In addition to the friendships forged by players and coaches over the years, the program has been a constant source of entertainment to students, parents, and other members of the Hill-Murray community and greater St. Paul, who have responded with enthusiastic fan support. Thanks to their efforts, Pioneer hockey continues to hold a special place in the unique pastime that is Minnesota high school hockey.

The 1960s

Pioneer hockey began at the all-boys Hill High School in 1960-61.  The first ever game against St. Cloud Cathedral was shortened to two periods because the Cathedral bus had trouble getting to the game, and, like many to follow, ended with a Hill victory, 3-0.  Not many indoor rinks existed in the Twin Cities at the time, so most games were either at the Minneapolis Auditorium, outdoors at Hill High School, or, in a few years, at Aldrich Arena as they are now.

The State High School League did not allow private schools to compete in its tournaments until 1974-75, but private schools fielded strong teams and hosted their own state tournaments held at Minneapolis, Wakota Arena, Duluth, and Aldrich Arena.  Duluth Cathedral, Cretin, Blake, Benilde, St. Paul Academy, Hill and later Hill-Murray would play and often beat top public schools during the regular season.

Hill played in the Central Catholic Conference, in which it would be a member until 1976.  At the time, the CCC and Minnesota Independent School League hosted an eight team postseason tournament called the Minnesota Prep School Tournament.  Hill improved to 3rd in the CCC thus qualifying for the tournament in 1962.

In 1964, Hill played in its first postseason championship game, losing to Blake 4-2.  The next year, the team had its finest season to date, going 20-3-2 with the school's first standout, Bill Klatt, leading the way to a CCC co-championship with St. Agnes.  In that year, the MN Prep School Tournament was replaced by the State Catholic Tournament, which matched the top six teams from the CCC against outstate powers Duluth Cathedral and Crookston Cathedral.  Hill made the final again, but lost in double overtime to Duluth Cathedral.  The next day, they played MISL champion Blake to a 0-0 tie at Williams Arena in the Twin City private school championship game.

The 1970s

The program made strides during the ‘60s, but really reached elite status after the arrival of Andre Beaulieu as coach prior to the 1968 season.  The Pioneers won the new Independent State Tournament in 1970 as Hill and 1972 as Hill-Murray.  Their run was interrupted only by a 4-2 loss in the 1971 championship game to their nemesis at the time, Blake.  The 1971 team finished the regular season at 23-0-1, including victories over MSHSL tournament entries Alexander Ramsey and St. Paul Johnson.  That collection of players stands out even among the many stars in the program's history, with four future D1 defensemen and the state's leading scorer, Pat Conroy.

Terry Skrypek became the coach in 1973-74, and in 14 years as head coach, his teams amassed a 325-44-3 record.  One year after Skrypek took over, Hill-Murray joined the State High School League.  Backstopped by future Olympian Steve Janaszak, the team allowed 33 goals in 27 games and qualified for the state tournament at the Met Center.  In what would become a recurring theme, they lost to Grand Rapids in the semifinal, but defeated Bloomington Lincoln the next day to win third place.

Hill won the CCC outright for the first time in 1970 and never relinquished the title.  They were part of the Minnesota Independent School Hockey League for one year only in 1977 before joining the St. Paul City Conference.  For the decade, the school won every conference and region championship, winning all four independent regional games and going 20-0 in Section 3 play after 1975.  The Section 3 streak would be stopped at 26 games in 1981, the first time in 20 years that Hill-Murray did not play in a postseason state tournament.


The 1970 Hill Pioneers were the school's first state champion


The 1972 Hill-Murray Pioneers won the program's second title in three years

The 1980s

Firmly established as one of the state’s powerhouses, Hill-Murray was part of an elite core of schools including Edina, Burnsville, and Bloomington Jefferson and Kennedy that dominated high school hockey during the ‘80s.  In 1980, Hill-Murray won its first 27 games and reached the state championship game.  But they again faced Grand Rapids, and netminder Jon Casey turned away 31 of 32 shots to defeat the Pioneers 2-1.  That would start a string in which Hill-Murray reached the championship game seven times in a fourteen season span.

Three years later, Hill-Murray again began the season with a long winning streak which they took into Rochester to play John Marshall.  The Pioneers fell behind 7-2 before making an incredible six-goal rally to win 8-7 in overtime, preserving their third undefeated regular season in school history.  This time, however, they reached the mountaintop, defeating Burnsville 4-3 to cap a perfect 28-0 season.

Jeff Whisler became the first former player to coach the Pioneers during the 1987-88 season and coached in two state championship games during his four year tenure.  Also that year, Hill-Murray joined the very competitive Twin Cities Suburban conference, and went 13-1 to finish in a familiar position atop the standings.  Craig Johnson, one of the school's best all-time players, played his first of three seasons in green and gold in 1988, and later enjoyed a long professional career in the NHL and Europe.


Bill King and Ben Belde in action during the 1980 tournament


Jeff Poeschl and his signature mask made the cover of the 1981 tourney program

The 1990s

Simmering throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Hill-Murray-White Bear Lake rivalry really intensified during the ‘90s.  The two schools had always been linked geographically, but their inclusion in the same conference, combined with the Bears’ first ever postseason defeat of Hill-Murray in 1989, turned this into one of the best rivalries in all of Minnesota.  From 1983-2003, no other school won a Section 3 title. 

In 1991, the Pioneers took a team-first, balanced scoring approach all the way to another state title.  In that year, Section 3 was its own mini-state tournament, with Park ranked #1 in the final statewide coaches’ poll but seeded #2 in the section behind the Brian Bonin-led Bears of White Bear Lake.  Hill-Murray squandered a five goal lead against Forest Lake and won in double overtime to barely get through the quarterfinal.  They gave up a last second goal before dispatching Park in overtime and fell behind 3-0 but rallied to defeat White Bear Lake in the section final.  The dramatic run climaxed when Hill-Murray became the only team to come back from a two-goal deficit in the state championship game, beating Duluth East 5-3 to become the last one-class state champion.

Another former player, Steve Rohlik, became the third coach in as many years to take the team to the state tournament in 1993.  The Pioneers made a memorable three goal comeback against Moorhead, with three time all-state defenseman Jason Godbout scoring the tying and go-ahead goals.

In 1995, Hill-Murray helped organize the East Side Showdown holiday tournament at Aldrich Arena, and it turned out to be a blockbuster when the state’s three top-ranked teams were all scheduled in the same round-robin bracket.  Before capacity crowds, Hill-Murray defeated Johnson and Duluth East twice, all in the span of a week, and finished the regular season 21-1 before losing in the playoffs to White Bear Lake for the third straight season.  In 1997, the Pioneers returned to the state tournament, losing a triple overtime heartbreaker to eventual champion Edina in the semifinal.


Mark Strobel was the leading scorer in the 1991 tournament. Pioneer Press photo.


Brandon Sampair in action during a 1997 tourney game. Pioneer Press photo.

The 2000s

By 2000, the face of high school hockey was changing.  No longer was the state tournament field almost identical from year to year.  Up and coming suburban and outstate programs created unforeseen parity and competition.  Still, some things don’t change; Hill-Murray and White Bear matchups continue to be as passionate as ever, despite the teams not playing in the same conference after 2001 when Hill-Murray entered the new Classic Suburban.

Former longtime JV coach Bill Lechner took over the program prior to the 1997-98 season, and coached Hill-Murray back to the state championship game in 2002, now at the new Xcel Energy Center.  The Pioneers came close but fell to a talented Holy Angels squad, 4-2.  Six years later, the 2008 team did one better, winning the state championship while allowing just four goals the entire playoffs. Adding emphasis to the team's accomplishment was that they won amidst an exceptional tournament field, taking the title with back-to-back wins over the state's two top-ranked teams, traditional powerhouses Roseau and Edina.

The school finished the decade as a four-time defending section champion, bringing its total to 23, the most by any school since 1975.


Joey McEnaney scores in overtime in the 2004 playoffs


Brian Arrigoni scores a highlight reel goal in the 2006 tournament. Star Tribune photo.


Joe Phillippi had two shutouts in the 2008 tournament including the final. Twin Cities Photography photo.

Copyright 1999-2017 hmpioneers.net

.