PROCTOR-HERMANTOWN (19-8) VS. CLOQUET-ESKO-CARLTON (24-3)

What: Section 7A final

When: 7 p.m.

Where: St. Luke’s Events Center, Proctor

Outlook: Second-seeded Proctor-Hermantown is vying for its sixth state-tournament appearance and fifth since 2014. The Mirage have won the past two section titles and are one of the hottest teams in the state. … Top-seeded Cloquet-Esko-Carlton is also vying for its sixth state-tournament appearance but hasn’t advanced since 2009. They beat Proctor-Hermantown 4-2 in the Section 7AA final that year when both programs were in Class AA. … The teams split during the regular season, with CEC winning 4-2 in the season opener on Nov. 7 in Cloquet and Proctor-Hermantown winning 6-1 Jan. 21 in Proctor. The Mirage got off to a slow start under first-year head coach Emma Stauber, losing three of their first four and going into December at 3-6. However, they enter the section final having won 10 straight by an average margin of 5.5-1.4. Since that setback to the Mirage, the Lumberjacks have won six straight by an average margin of 5-0.8. CEC and Proctor-Hermantown are ranked Nos. 3-4, respectively, in Class A. … Proctor-Hermantown advanced with a 4-0 semifinal victory over Duluth Marshall on Saturday as junior Michaela Phinney had two goals, junior Aurora Opsahl had three assists and sophomore Abby Parjari had an 18-save shutout. Junior Alyssa Watkins (21 goals, 26 assists, 47 points), Opsahl (17-21—38), Phinney (23-14—37), Ella Anick (9-20—29), a Bemidji State recruit, and Nya Sieger (18-10—28) lead the team in scoring, while Pajari is 15-4 with a 1.28 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and eight shutouts. … Cloquet-Esko-Carlton advanced with a 5-1 victory over Hibbing-Chisholm as senior Taylor Nelson had her seventh hat trick of the season and freshman Araya Kiminski stopped 13 shots. Nelson, another Bemidji State recruit, leads the Lumberjacks with 43 goals and 30 assists for 73 points, which ranks her among the top 10 in the state. Taylor is followed by Kiana Bender (31-25—56, Dea DeLeon (7-33—40) and Tenley Stewart (3-23—26), while Kiminski (14-2, 1.78 GG, .892 save percentage) has split time in net with senior Lauren Maslowski (10-1, 1.02 GAA, .919 save percentage).

Up next: The winner advances to the Class A quarterfinals Feb. 19 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul against an opponent to be determined once seedings are determined.

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Jon Nowacki, News Tribune