As 2020 begins, the race is heating up for winter sports. Owatonna's girls and boys hockey teams are very much in the thick of the chase for the Big Nine Conference championship. The girls season has hit the midway point with the boys close behind.

The Huskies' girls have just one conference loss but are third in the Big Nine standings based on points, as of January 1. Faribault (9-2 in conference) leads the way with 22 points. Northfield (6-0) has 20 points and is the defending conference champ. OHS (7-1) has 18 points. The Huskies last won the conference in 2010-2011.

Owatonna beat Faribault 5-4 in overtime December 10. The teams have a rematch January 18 in Faribault. OHS lost to Northfield 4-0 December 17. The teams will meet again January 30 in Northfield. That game could be for the fourth seed in Section 1AA and a home playoff game against the other.

The Huskies are coming off a pair of overtime games at the Louis Schmitz Classic in Farmington. Owatonna lost 2-1 to the Tigers in the opener and ended up with a 1-1 tie against New Prague.

Leading scorer Ezra Oien got injured in the Farmington game and missed the game against the Trojans. OHS coach Tony Cloud said Oien banged her knees into the wall and is hopeful she will return to action soon.

The Owatonna boys are 3-0 in conference games but are fourth in the Big Nine standings based on points, as of January 1. Defending champ Rochester Century (5-0) leads the way with 16 points. Northfield (5-1) has 14 points. Mankato West (3-2) is third with 10. OHS has eight points.

Owatonna, who beat Northfield 2-0 December 17, gets their first of two meetings with Century on Thursday, January 9 on Dudley Otto Rink at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna. The Huskies upset the Panthers in double-overtime in the playoffs after dropping a pair of one-goal games to them last season. The 'Huskies' have never won the Big Nine, although the Owatonna 'Indians' did win back-to-back titles in 1991-92 and 1992-93.

The Huskies play a big section seeding game January 14 against Farmington and close the season February 15 at section foe Hastings. While the Lakeville teams hold down the top two spots in the QRF Section 1AA ratings, the battle for the third seed is wide open.