Girls Hockey: High-flying Wingers ready for new season
For three consecutive seasons, the Red Wing girls hockey team has appeared in the Class A state tournament. And for the last two seasons, the Wingers played in the championship semifinals, falling to Breck in 2012 and Blake in 2013.
Of course, that was all with Paige Haley anchoring the defense.
Now that Haley has donned the maroon and gold of the University of Minnesota, the Wingers’ path to a fourth-straight Section 1A title got more complicated.
But not much more.
The Wingers will bring back their top forward line – Nicole Schammel, Reagan Haley and Emily Stegora – a group that totaled 238 points in 2012-13, including 113 goals. And to be sure the defense doesn’t have to completely fill the shoes of Paige Haley: All-State goaltender Ashley Corcoran will again be between the pipes.
“The biggest thing for us is we return 14 or 15 girls that lettered last year,” Red Wing head coach Scott Haley said. “We’ve got a group of girls that have been to three or four state tournaments. Some of it is just keying in on that experience. This is probably the oldest group I’ve coached since I’ve been here. So that’s kind of neat to rely on that veteran presence and experience.”
The Wingers will boast three seniors this year in Schammel, Stegora and Hailee Johnson. And while that may not seem like a large group of “veterans,” four juniors and five sophomores bring varsity ice time to the roster.
“We’re not playing quite as many freshmen and eighth-graders as we have in the past, so from that standpoint, our average age has gone up considerably over the years, which is good,” Scott Haley said.
While those juniors and sophomores will be tasked with making up the second and third lines, there is no doubt as to which line will garner the vast majority of attention this winter.
Schammel scored a Minnesota-best 61 goals last year, which helped her top the state in points with 104. Reagan Haley had the second-most assists in the state with 46 and was sixth with 73 points. Stegora had 61 points as a junior, including 36 assists, good for eighth in the state.
With such eye-popping numbers coming back, another state tournament seems likely — not that the Wingers will say as much.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves with it,” Schammel said. “We need to remember that everyone still has to work really hard. It’s a team process, not just the (top) line and the goalie, everyone has to play good for us to be successful.”
Of course, not many teams – actually, none – return the kind of scoring power that the Wingers do. Yet having a safety net like Corcoran may be the biggest key to having a season that doesn’t end in the state semifinals.
“It’s nice to know that she’s there to have our backs,” Johnson said. “We know we have to protect her, but we don’t have to worry about it as much. We know we can count on her.”
Whether the Wingers can count on the second and third lines is still to be seen. But in practice, the younger girls have shown a willingness to put in the work.
“They’re doing (well) in practice,” Stegora said. “Our third line is the best it’s ever been, and our second line is still really good.”
The third-ranked Wingers will open the season Tuesday with a trip to Chisago Lakes, followed by a visit to No. 12 St. Paul United. Red Wing’s home opener is 7 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 19 against Mahtomedi.