Girls Hockey: New piece to the puzzleRed Wing had a surplus of offensive talent coming into this season. The Wingers returned its top line and the top scoring defenseman in the state for three years running, so goal scoring wouldn’t be an issue.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing had a surplus of offensive talent coming into this season.
The Wingers returned its top line and the top scoring defenseman in the state for three years running, so goal scoring wouldn’t be an issue.
But after graduating starting goaltender Lisa Nibbe, Red Wing had a void at a premium position.
So when Ashley Corcoran’s family decided to move from Farmington to Red Wing, the Wingers found their missing link.
“It’s been a real blessing for our program that she’s here,” Red Wing head coach Scott Haley said. “And she’s taken the opportunity to play with a pretty solid group of kids, too. It’s been such a win-win for her and our team.”
The transition from Farmington to Red Wing was difficult, but Ashley said her family is more than happy with the decision. Sister Kelsey Corcoran also plays for the Wingers.
“The whole family decided we wanted a change and we were looking a long time,” Ashley Corcoran said. “Red Wing just seemed to be a good fit for us. We really liked the community here.”
Corcoran, a sophomore at Red Wing, met some of the Wingers during an off-season 4-on-4 league and played in elite leagues and camps, which helped make for a smoother changeover.
“Obviously transferring to a different school, you don’t know anybody in the school,” she said. “Now, I’m making friends and the hockey girls have really helped me out with everything. On the ice, all the girls are really intense. Off the ice, we’re all just like a big family.”
Haley said he didn’t know what to expect when Ashley joined the team, but her steady demeanor and work ethic are more than the Wingers hoped for and the results are more than Corcoran expected.
Without her, Red Wing might not be playing in the Class 1A girls state hockey tournament today at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Haley admitted.
“It’s her and the combination of the ‘D’ core,” Haley said. “Obviously that top line is producing at an epic rate, but that’s probably the biggest difference between our team this year and our team last year.”
With the success Corcoran and the Wingers are experiencing this season, a state title run is in their sights and the future looks bright. Corcoran has a 93.6 save percentage and Red Wing allowed only 48 goals heading into the state tourney.
“She’s had the best statistics as a goaltender since I’ve been here,” Haley said. “I don’t know what came prior to me, but I can’t imagine anything was much better. I’ve always told my goalies that our goal is to hit 90 (save percentage) and she’s done above and beyond that. … To have that for the next two years and not really have to worry about the most important position on the team is incredible.”
Corcoran’s confidence and aggressiveness are key to her success, but so is her willingness to learn. She is constantly looking for ways to improve with assistant coach Mike Doyle, who played goalie for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
“Mike spends a lot of time with the goaltenders and he said she’s like a sponge,” Haley said. “She asks questions and she wants to better and that’s the biggest thing you can ask for is she just wants to improve.”
The security she provides in net also allows the Wingers to be more aggressive offensively and it continues to fuel their record-setting season. Red Wing has scored 168 goals with Nicole Schammel leading the state in scoring and Paige Haley leading all defenseman in scoring.
“It probably allows us to push the puck out a little bit and it allows us to also be a little more aggressive keeping the pucks in the zone knowing we can give a 2-on-1 or a breakaway and she’s probably going to be pretty successful,” Scott Haley said.
Scott Haley said he was nervous about how Corcoran would play in the Section 1A finale, her first test in a pressure atmosphere. But as the Wingers defeated eighth-ranked New Prague 9-1, she showed calm and steady play in the net while making 15 saves.
Now, Corcoran gets her first taste of the state tournament and she feels ready.
“I just need to focus and think of it as any regular game because it really is,” Corcoran said. “One year ago, I’d be up in the stands watching state and all the girls play and now I actually get to experience playing in it. It’s really exciting for me and I can’t wait.”