Girls Hockey: Red Wing, JM battle to tie
With four-point games littering the schedule, the Big Nine Conference standings are a bit of a mess. But it doesn't take a calculator to know that when Rochester John Marshall and Red Wing face off, it's going to matter.
On Thursday, the Rockets and the Wingers met at Prairie Island Arena, both holding out hope of catching Owatonna for the top spot in the league. But after a 2-2 tie, both JM and Red Wing will have to run the table, but the Wingers will need some assistance.
“That's one of our goals, to hang a banner,” said Red Wing head coach Scott Haley. “But we need some help from Northfield.”
Thursday's matchup began with a Taylor Heise goal 2 minutes, 50 seconds into the game. That lead held until 9:26 of the second when Renee Saltness scored to even the contest, 1-1. That goal was a bit of a blow to the Wingers, who had a man advantage in the first, and two in the second, with nothing to show for it.
“We've been struggling a bit on the power play, but we've been getting better with that every day,” Heise said. “It's going to help us playing against someone like that this is that aggressive.”
And then the third period began, and Red Wing was on the penalty kill for the third time, highlighting the special teams again.
“We spent a little too much time in the box,” Haley said. “They shadow Taylor on the penalty kill, and we have a set play for that. But sometimes it takes one or two power plays to get back in the swing of it. But we had moments of our best hockey. It's clear, defensively, we've come a long, long way. We just need some secondary scoring outside of Taylor.”
Heise would end up picking off a pass at her defensive blue line, racing to the other end to put Red Wng up 2-1 at 2:22 of the third.
But, infractions would finally cost the Wingers with Saltness netting her second goal at 10:14 on a snipe from the bottom of the left circle where she glided in all alone on the power play.
The Rockets, who had just 26 shots in the game, including 12 in the second, were still on the defensive for much of the game, capitalizing when they could. And when Gabby McGill missed on a 2-on-1, Emily Hart missed on a loose puck, and Heise missed on three great chances in front of JM goalie Sophia Hyke, there was a sense the Rockets might find a gritty goal like Saltness' first one of the game.
Instead, the Wingers kept up the pressure, and Tyler McGrath made three saves in overtime to keep the deadlock into the final horn.
“They key is not getting frustrated,” Heise said. “I got a little frustrated at the beginning. You just have to take a deep breath and remember that your teammates have your back. Like Gabby missing the shot in overtime, she just came harder than ever. And that's what we look for. You come back out and punch em in the mouth, like we say.”
Red Wing (12-5-4, 7-0-2 Big Nine) has three regular season games left, beginning with a visit from Mankato West on Saturday. Albert Lea comes to town on Tuesday, with the season finale scheduled at Mankato East on Thursday. JM (12-7-1, 9-2-1) must play Faribault twice, New Prague, East and Owatonna (15-5-2, 13-0-2), in the penultimate game of the season. The Huskies close with Northfield, JM and Mayo. Owatonna beat JM, 4-1, in early January, and tied Northfield two days earlier.