Girls Hockey: Wingers take third at state tournament
ST. PAUL - In Paige Haley's final game for Red Wing Saturday, she made an early statement.
The Ms. Hockey finalist uncorked a slap shot from nearly center ice 3 minutes, 5 seconds in for the first goal of the game and the Wingers thwarted a late rally by South St. Paul to grab a 3-2 victory.
The win wrapped up third place for Red Wing at the Class 1A girls state hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center.
"It's a momentum changer especially when everyone is super tired and we're in the third-place game and it's not super fun to play in because we were thinking about the loss yesterday," Haley said. "It got everyone excited and let them know that we could handle it. It was really crucial."
It wasn't the state championship but the Wingers still crept one step closer to being a top girls hockey team in the state.
"This year, beating Breck and South St. Paul was a big step for us," Red Wing head coach Scott Haley said. "It just kind of leaves two other teams (in Blake and Warroad)."
"They're coached so well that they're going to play with anyone," Wingers' forward Nicole Schammel added. "Beating a team that's coached so well and been rivals for so long is great."
The Packers struggled to stay out of the penalty box early in the game, taking three penalties in a 7-minute span of the first two periods. Red Wing had a 5-on-3 power play to end the first period and start the second period. The Wingers capitalized early in the second as Reagan Haley extended their lead with an assist to Paige Haley.
After Anna Barlow took a cross-checking penalty at 5:43 of the second period, Emily Stegora put the Wingers up 3-0, deftly deflecting a shot by Paige Haley into the net. Schammel also received an assist on the play.
A broken play against Red Wing's third line allowed a loose puck to find South St. Paul's Lauren Wilcox, who unleashed a slap shot past Wingers' goaltender Ashley Corcoran. Wilcox and Barlow tested Red Wing from the beginning of the second period on but the score remained 3-1 into the second intermission.
"They were using their points really well," Scott Haley said. "Everything is run through their blue line. Wilcox is a real good player, and so is Barlow. They spread out the ice and they've got set plays off of it."
In the third period, the Packers threw everything they had at Corcoran. Riley Viner scored a power-play goal at 8:20 to pull South St. Paul within a goal, but the Wingers held off a flurry of opportunities in the final minutes. The Packers' size and strength led to most of the chances as Red Wing slowed in the final period.
"They were just way more physical," Scott Haley said. "We were fresh early and they got us tired but the bigger, older team thing
A big reason the Wingers stayed out front was the play of Corcoran. She made 16 saves in the final period and 31 for the game.
"I thought she played really solid," Scott Haley said. "Once again, it's just a good experience for her to get that under her belt. You never know if you're going to get back here so for her to at least get one of them is pretty cool."
On Saturday, Red Wing played in the third-place game for the third time in the last five seasons. The Wingers placed third in 2009 and fourth last year.
"There are only 12 teams that get to even play in the last day of the season," Paige Haley said. "It's even harder to win on that last day. It means a lot to me."
Paige Haley will continue playing next season at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, but the season's conclusion closes a chapter in her career.
"It's not as sad because I have something to look forward to," she said. "It's a little bittersweet for me but I'm excited to see what comes along and I'm going to miss this so much. I have the best memories here and this team means so much more to me than I think they know, especially with Reagan being on the team. It was good to do that with my sister."
Red Wing finished the season with a 27-3 record, the best in program history.