Big surprises, peak performances as the girls season enters December
Sunday, November 28, 2021
With the calendar turning to December, the girls hockey season is just getting warmed up. Less than a month into the 2021-22 season, each team has shown a sampling of themselves, from which there are a number of pleasant surprises and outstanding performances.
As the Zamboni circles the rink in preparation for an action-packed month of December, here’s what has stood out so far in both Class 1A and 2A.
After the tragic, senseless death of head coach Mike Ryan last April, the Jaguars entered the new season with heavy hearts. Thus far, the Jags have honored the late coach with an inspired stretch of hockey to begin the season, reeling off five straight wins.
Last season’s brutal tragedy and 6-10-4 record did not make such a start seem likely. But Jefferson has responded under the leadership of new head coach Mark Johnson. Grace Schuck and Abbie Longhenry have led the offense with 27 points between them, and the team is averaging over six goals per game. The Jaguars’ fast start is among the best feel-good stories of the young season.
Must be the luck of the Irish that has Rosemount off to their best start in years. Or maybe it’s just good to have Whitney Tuttle on your team. The Irish are 5-0 and have four one-goal victories already, thanks to Tuttle’s blazing start.
Following a non-descript 9-8-0 season last year in which they lost five of their final seven games, the Irish have made all the right moves so far with three consecutive overtime victories. Rosemount opened the season by blasting Chisago Lakes 6-0 - and then came the nail biters. They topped Gentry Academy 5-4, Eastview 2-1, and Shakopee 5-4, all in overtime.
Tuttle, a Minnesota State commit, scored the winner in all three overtimes, a remarkable display of clutch offensive opportunism. For an encore, Tuttle netted the game-winner in a 3-2 regulation win over Simley. Through five games, Tuttle has 8 goals and 16 points, with 4 game-winners. Rosemount appears to be going places this season. All aboard the Tuttle Shuttle!
The Raiders’ impressive record last year couldn’t be backed up with any prominent, signature victories. Not so this year, as Northfield powered past 1A contender Mound/Westonka and Chisago Lakes to open the season, and then took down Lakeville South in their home opener.
Led by sophomore sniper Ayla Puppe, who has 10 of the team’s 18 goals so far, Northfield appears poised to make a push for a Section 1AA championship. And with just two seniors on this year’s team, the Raiders figure to be contenders for at least the near future.
In goal, Northfield counts on Maggie Malecha, a senior who is a big reason for the Raiders’ great start. Malecha has a 1.79 GAA and a .938 SV%. She was huge in the team’s 4-2 win over Lakeville South, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a game where Northfield was outshot 33-18.
The Royals took Edina to overtime at home before losing 3-2, and, with impressive wins over GrandRapids/Greenway and Brainerd/Little Falls, it’s pretty clear that the Royals are for real.
The team showed flashes last season but finished an uneven 9-8-0, losing 3-2 to Maple Grove in the section semi-finals. This season, a balanced offensive attack and outstanding goaltending by Alexa Backmann (0.97 GAA, .944 SV%) has Rogers in the conversation regarding the best teams in a competitive Section 5AA.
Other than a harmless second period goal by Armstrong/Cooper’s Claire Sondrall, Holy Angels goaltender Celeste Rimstad has been perfect to start the season. Rimstad has a 0.25 GAA and a .990 SV% as the Stars have rocketed out to a 4-0 start.
Ryan LaMere’s squad figured to be top ten in 1A this season, with Rimstad and most of the team’s top scorers returning. And after four dominant games to start the season, Holy Angels is looking like clear co-favorites - along with Mound Westonka - in Section 5A.
The team’s top line of Bella LaMere, Audrey Garton and Ella Clow has combined for 33 points already. The Stars don’t have the most difficult schedule ahead of them, but an upcoming Dec. 2 game at #1 Orono will serve as an early-season measure of just how good this team really is.
They are who we thought they were
Some heavy hitters have opened the season looking dominant, just as we expected.
The goals haven’t been piling up as we’ve come to expect, but the Huskies have been rock solid to start the year. With Courtney Stagman in goal and the defense limiting opponents’ chances, Andover has shown they’ll be extremely tough to beat.
Andover's Courtney Stagman Photo by Mike Lieb
The Huskies opened the season with big statement wins at home over Benilde-St. Margaret’s (3-2) and Minnetonka (1-0), just in case anyone thought they might have lost too much from last season.
The top line of Ella Boerger, Madison Brown and Issa Goettl is off to a solid start and the Huskies remain the team to beat in Section 7AA.
The defending champs kicked things off with a dominant road trip to Duluth, where they outscored the Duluth Northern Stars and Duluth Marshall by a combined 16-1. A road trip to Rogers for game three netted a 3-2 win in overtime. In other words, it’s all systems GO for the Hornets, as they prepare for as tough a stretch of games as any team in the state.
With junior Princeton commit Uma Corniea in goal and a defense that rarely gets out of position, the Hornets are formidable once again. They still look like the favorites in Section 6AA, just ahead of Wayzata and Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
Other than a 1-0 loss to Andover (no shame in that), the Skippers have been as good as advertised, pummeling Roseville to open the season and coming from behind to edge a top-tier Stillwater squad, 4-3. Then they were inhospitable hosts for Brainerd/Little Falls in a 6-1 rout, outshooting the visitors 40-12.
As expected, junior forward Grace Sadura, a future UMD Bulldog, leads the way with 7 goals. Golden Gopher commits Ava Lindsay and Josie Hemp are both newcomers to the team but haven’t missed a beat. And in goal, senior Sophia Johnson has been stellar, posting a 1.24 GAA and a .919 SV% through four games.
The girls from Hockeytown USA looked sharp in a recent trip to the Twin Cities, skating to a 1-1 tie at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, and then beating Elk River Zimmerman 2-1.
The Warriors are tough at both ends, able to shut down opposing offenses, and capable of pouring it on with the puck on their sticks. Kate Johnson and Talya Hendrickson are as fast and creative as any duo in the state and have thus far combined for 30 points in the team’s first seven games.
On the back end, senior goalie Kendra Nordick has been outstanding, posting a 1.27 GAA and a .937 SV%. Warroad plays in Class 1A, but has shown they are every bit as good as the top 2A teams.
It was expected that the balance and experience of the Fire would put them firmly among the top teams in Class 2A, and Holy Family has looked strong in their 3-0-1 start. They opened with a trip up to Warroad and came away with a 3-2 victory.
Most recently, they shut down Chaska/Chanhassen 5-0, outshooting the Hawks 53-20. HFF’s BFF is netminder Sedona Blair, who has a 1.16 GAA and a .948 SV%. Holy Family and Minnetonka appear to be on a collision course for the Section 2AA title. In the meaningless trivia department, the Fire has already set an unofficial state record for most players named Maddie on their roster with four.
November Peak Performers
Sloane Matthews, Wayzata Trojans
Future OSU Buckeye has 7 goals, including two highlight reel tallies in 2-1 win over Benilde.
Wayzata's Sloane Matthews Photo by Mike Lieb
Whitney Tuttle, Rosemount Irish
Eight goals, 16 points and four game-winners - three in OT - is fairly awesome work.
Megan Goodreau, Centennial/Spring Lake Park
The senior has scored 7 goals in helping her team to a 4-0-1 start. A challenging schedule awaits.
Sydney Leonard, Mound Westonka White Hawks
Junior forward has 17 points in seven games as the White Hawks are off to a 6-1-0 start.
Makayla Moran, Apple Valley Eagles
Freshman is off to a scintillating start with 17 points in five games. Her big sis Marie is next with 11 points.
Kamryn Van Batavia, Luverne Cardinals
The MSU-bound scoring machine has 22 points in five games for the Cardinals. Strength of schedule is another matter.
Kate Johnson, Warroad Warriors
A first period hat trick against Apple Valley put the game away early. Her goal versus Benilde-St. Margaret’s earned Warroad a 1-1 tie. Johnson and linemate Tayla Hendrickson will be giving teams fits all winter long.
Mercury Bischoff, Grand Rapids/Greenway Lightning
The freshman phenom has 12 goals in the team’s first five games, but showed her playmaking ability most recently with assists on both goals in the Lightning’s 2-1 win over Blaine.
The puck stops here
Celeste Rimstad, Holy Angels
The Stars senior goaltender has allowed just one goal in four Stars victories for a 0.25 GAA and a .990 SV%.
Courtney Stagman, Andover Huskies
After ten shutouts last season, Stagman already has two this year for the Huskies (0.75 GAA, .964 SV%)
Dani Strom, Maple Grove Crimson
The Crimson are off to an unbeaten start, and Strom has been a big reason why. The sophomore netminder has a 0.72 GAA and .965 SV% to go along with two shutouts.
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