State girls hockey: Wingers cruise in opener
ST. PAUL – The Class A girls state hockey tournament began Wednesday with a thrilling game between second-seeded Blake and unseeded Alexandria. The Cardinals pushed the defending champs to a one-goal game, all while giving Red Wing a gentle reminder to bring its “A” game against New Ulm.
The Wingers indeed took the ice in top form, scoring five times in the first period, and cruising to a 7-2 victory in the quarterfinals, and setting up a rematch with Blake in the seminfinals at 11 a.m. Friday.
“We did talk about (the previous game),” said Red Wing head coach Scott Haley. “I was really impressed with how Alex played. I thought Alex did a good job and played hockey the right way. I think it’s really good for girls hockey. How many times have we been to the state tournament, and the first-round games, especially in Class A, get out of hand? I thought that game was impressive from that standpoint, and we used it to remind these kids, when you look back four years ago when we were seeded fourth and we lost to Eveleth, too. Yeah, we did talk about it.”
Whatever the exact words were, the Wingers heard them loud and clear.
“It was hard not to look past this game with the game before us that got us kind of excited, obviously,” said Red Wing senior Nicole Schammel. “We just had to keep focus on this game, win this game, and I think that we executed well.”
Schammel in particular executed to near perfection in the first period, scoring three goals and adding an assist on Reagan Haley’s goal 1 minute, 6 seconds into the game that gave the Wingers a 1-0 lead.
“Teammates passed me the puck, but (there were) a few breakdowns on the other team’s part and some pretty wide open chances that I think most people would capitalize on,” Schammel said, who scored her goals consecutively from 1:51 to 10:46 of the first period. It is the third-consecutive state quarterfinal that Schammel has scored at least three goals.
The three goals gave Schammel 61 for the season, and 269 for her career. With three assists as well on Wednesday, Schammel improved her career scoring mark to 452 points, tops in Red Wing history, and second all-time in the state, according to Minnesota State High School League records. Haley, who had two assists, increased her own school-record in assists to 207.
And after a couple of games that saw Emily Stegora go without a goal, the senior put two past New Ulm’s Miranda McMullen. All seven of the Wingers’ goals were scored by the top line of Stegora, Schammel and Haley.
Should Red Wing need an Alexandria-style reminder heading into Friday’s semifinal, the Wingers only need look back to Dec. 14, and a 5-2 loss to Blake in the ninth game of the season. If anything else can help Red Wing, the game will be on neutral ice at Xcel Energy Center, and, hopefully, the Wingers come with a better overall game than they did in a contest played prior to Christmas.
“These girls kind of came in when we started attending state tournaments,” Scott Haley said. “Emily and Nicole were for our first as seventh-graders, and Reagan came in that next wave there. So we remember the days when if I would have called Blake or Breck, there would have been chuckles on the other end of the line.
“It feels a long ways away. It’s nice to feel like we’re getting those games, and we’re getting meaningful games in the state tournament, and those good Class A teams in the regular season,” Haley added. “We’re excited … One of our worst games of the year was against Blake back in (December). So we’re looking forward to getting another crack at them.”