Girls Hockey: Getting down to businessAfter taking 4th in state last year, Red Wing readies for another shot at a Class 1A title
By: Joe Brown, The Republican Eagle
With a roster full of players that have been in three state tournaments, Red Wing girls hockey coach Scott Haley thinks the novelty of going to state is gone.
After a fourth-place showing in the Class 1A state tournament, the Wingers hope to leave a lasting impression on the 2012-13 season.
“Now they want to try and make their mark,” Haley said. “And I think we have the talent and the experience to do something.”
Opening practice on Monday, Red Wing brings 13 letter winners back from last season, including its top four scorers: Nicole Schammel (50 goals, 40 assists, 90 points), Paige Haley (33-38-71), Reagan Haley (19-48-67) and Emily Stegora (25-13-38).
“We return 13 letter winners, so we’re way ahead of where we were in practice last year,” Scott Haley said. “In my seven years of coaching, this is easily the smoothest first week I’ve had. From tempos to attitudes, it’s seamless.”
The Wingers, who are ranked fifth in the state’s preseason poll, open the 2012-13 season on Nov. 10 against Rochester Mayo at Prairie Island Arena.
Going 20-9-1 in 2011-12, Red Wing advanced to the state tournament for the second consecutive season, opening the Class 1A tournament with a 6-5 overtime win against Hutchinson. In the state semifinals, the Wingers lost to eventual state champion Breck 8-4, and lost 5-2 in the third-place game against Warroad.
Now, the goal is to go even farther.
“I don’t think anyone’s hanging their head on how state went last year, we’re all using that as motivation,” said senior forward Maddie Flack. “I think we can go farther this year if we play as a team and do what we can do. … It’s only been the first week, but team chemistry is already great.”
Aiding that cause is the Wingers’ offense, which ranked fourth in Class A with 5.3 goals per game.
“Everyone’s ready to go this year,” said Paige Haley, who led the state in 2011-12 in scoring by a defenseman. “We had such a great, strong year last year with our team’s best record and making it to state. We’re ranked fifth right now and I think everyone’s pumped about that, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.”
While the Wingers lost just three players, the biggest impact is on the defensive end, with first-line defenseman Elle Anderson (11-16-27) and goaltender Lisa Nibbe (20-9-1 record, 3.31 goals against average) gone due to graduation.
Scott Haley admits it could take a little while for the defense to jell and the unit may not be as physical as last year, but in the first week the progress at the blue line has been promising.
“It’s one of those things where I think we’ll be fine at the end of the year,” he said. “We moved (Kayla) Oberding from forward to ‘D.’ Last year was (Caitie) Turcotte’s first year at ‘D,’ and we got to get Kayla back there and get some experience. By the time we get to the back third of the season, I think we’ll be fine.”
In net, Red Wing will look to newcomer Ashley Corcoran to fill in for Nibbe. And early on, both players and coaches have been impressed with Corcoran’s skills in the crease.
“We’re pumped about the new players coming in, and Ashley is doing really well so far,” Flack said.
Scott Haley added, “The thing I’ve been impressed with Ashley is her work ethic. It’s so high. Technically, in the net, she’s well above average and she just brings a really good dynamic. … Ashley’s got to get her feet under her, but so far, I’ve been impressed by what we’ve shown defensively so far.”
While the Wingers are used to the glitz and glamour of the state tournament, the enthusiasm of getting to the Xcel Energy Center in late February has not wavered.
“Everyone is taking the intensity from this fall, this summer, even last year and driving it right back into what we have now,” Paige Haley said. “We use last year as motivation to move forward. We did lose some talent, but we sure make up for it with some new players, and some players have gotten older and stronger and better.”
First, Red Wing wants to clinch another section title, then the team can set its sights on winning its first state championship.
“As far as the girls getting along, this is as good as it’s been as long as I’ve been here,” Scott Haley said. “I think they realize they have the opportunity to do something special this year.”