Hopkins vs. Minnetonka

5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 9

For almost 10 years, Minnetonka has finished at or near the top of the standings in the Lake Conference standings — one of the state's most competitive leagues. 

Hopkins has not, but it is trying to produce its first winning season in nearly a decade while navigating through its Lake schedule.

Boosted by a new-found confidence, the Royals are ready to show they will be a difficult opponent to defeat when facing the Skippers on Thursday in our Top Game of the Week.

Longtime powerhouse Eden Prairie has dominated the Lake Conference, but Minnetonka has been competitive, finishing second or third every season going back to 2011.

Getting past the Eagles in the postseason has also been difficult for the Skippers, who advanced to the section championship each of the past seven years but hasn't gotten past Eden Prairie and reached the state tournament.

Minnetonka, despite its losing record, is ranked No. 9 in the state coaches' poll from May 1. With six of its first seven opponents being ranked, the Skippers (3-4, 1-2) have been rewarded for playing a difficult schedule.

The Skippers offense has been driven by Minnie Bittell, who leads the team with 18 goals and 26 points, and Josie Helling, who has 13 goals.

Hopkins (5-1, 0-1) has already surpassed last season's four-win mark, rattling off five consecutive victories to start the season. Edina threw a wrench in the Royals' streak, however, with a 17-0 victory last Thursday.

Olivia Michielson, a sophomore midfielder, has been key for Hopkins with 16 goals, including four in victories against St. Louis Park (8-4 on April 23) and Southwest Christian (10-0 on April 25). Another big-time performance from her could be what the Royals need to sink the Skippers on Thursday.