Girls Hockey: Wingers defense steps up in victory
For nearly 40 minutes Tuesday evening, a loss was not out of the question for the Red Wing girls hockey team. Facing New Prague, the Wingers had just one goal through two periods. Not that the Trojans had the momentum, rather, Red Wing simply could not convert a myriad of chances through the first 34 minutes.
Nicole Schammel, the state’s leading scorer last year, missed on a couple of breakaways, and, as a team, the Wingers ringed the post three times. Emily Stegora, another prolific scorer, registered one assist Tuesday. Throw in some good goaltending from New Prague, and Red Wing’s eventual 4-0 win was not an obvious conclusion.
But the Wingers were able to counter with some good team defense, great goaltending of its own, as well as a three-point night from Maddy Hardyman, and additional goals from Hailee Johnson, Reagan Haley and Taylor Heise.
“That’s something we’ve been talking about, the depth of our team, in general, has gotten a lot better,” said Red Wing head coach Scott Haley. “Picking up three goals like that (not) from (Schammel, Stegora or Reagan Haley), that was a big thing.”
Continued Haley: “The key to the game tonight was Ashley, and for the most part, our team defense was pretty solid.”
Johnson got Red Wing on the board 9 minutes, 37 seconds into the game on a wrist shot from just inside the top of the circle, firing the puck into the net on a great feed from Hardyman. The goal underscored the dominance the Wingers showed early one, keeping the puck for long periods and producing several shots. But many of those attempts were blocked by an aggressive Trojans defense.
And when getting in front of the puck wasn’t working, New Prague instead played Red Wing body to body.
“That’s a good team, and I expect us to be competing with them to get out of our section,” Haley said. “I was impressed with how they played. They were really aggressive on the forecheck. I wasn’t too surprised. I would say, in Class A, that might be the best team we’ve played. They might be a little underrated right now.”
The Trojans put-shot the Wingers 8-4 in the second period, forcing the Red Wing defense to play in its own end for extended periods of time. But the Wingers never broke, knowing that any lapse in concentration could see the game evened up.
“Everyone was on (the edge of) their seats the whole time. And we knew that if we let up, there’s that split second (when) they could get that goal and tie the game,” Hardyman said. “Ashley did a good job shutting the door and not letting anything in.”
The third period was much the same as the scoreless second, as New Prague continued to play aggressively. But Reagan Haley broke through at 5:19 with some nifty moves to put the Wingers ahead 2-0, a lead Hardyman, who earned an assist on the goal, said is “the worst (lead) in hockey.”
A little more than four minutes later, Taylor Heise scored unassisted before Hardyman slammed the door at 14:17 with her own goal.
Red Wing (7-0 overall, 2-0 Missota Conference) will hit the road for a four-game stretch starting with a 7:15 p.m. game Thursday against Chaska/Chanhassen (6-1-1, 3-0). The top-ranked Wingers will then face No. 7 Blake in a rematch of the 2013 Class A semifinals Saturday in Hopkins.