Girls Hockey: Northfield blanks Red Wing for section title
OWATONNA – Thursday's Section 1A championship game at Four Seasons Center was between the top two seeds, and was the third matchup of the season for Red Wing and Northfield. The Wingers had won the previous two games by one goal, and it figured that a similar scenario would determine which school would represent the section at next week's state tournament.
But few would have guessed that of the 52 combined shots that Tyler McGrath and Mallory Tidona faced, that only one would reach the back of the net.
Yet that's exactly what happened as Tidona backstopped the Raiders to a 2-0 victory, and a spot in the Class 1A playoffs that begin Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“Credit goes to Mallory, we had plenty of opportunities,” said Red Wing head coach Scott Haley. “Their goal was kind of a weird bounce, a deflection through the five-hole. But that's how they play. They tend to get dirtier goals, and ours tend to be prettier. But they had a great game plan for us.”
Nearly a period and-a-half had expired before Siri Lindell took a shot from the top of the right circle. The puck had no clear path to McGrath, but a Winger leg in front knocked the rubber to the ice and it carried just enough momentum to beat the Red Wing goalie to give Northfield a 1-0 lead with 9 minutes, 36 seconds left to play in the second period.
Taylor Heise, who had 54 goals on the season and nine in two playoff games, was held off the scoresheet thanks Northfield's centers, who consistently pushed her wide and away from the slot.
“When you have a good goalie, she can stop Taylor outside the circles,” Haley said. “The thing that surprised us the most was that earlier in the year if Taylor got inside, they'd just haul her down for penalties. But, for the most part, they were pretty disciplined tonight.”
After totaling 13 shots through the first two periods, the Wingers put 14 on Tidona in the third. But the junior Raider was up to every challenge, including stopping Heise from the slot and, perhaps most memorably, sliding left to catch Emily Hart's shot from 15 feet with 40 seconds to play.
Hart nearly tied the game, but any hope of a comeback was thwarted 31 seconds later when Madi Goldsworthy fired at an empty net to make it 2-0.
The loss definitely stung sixth-ranked Red Wing. Haley said as much, and the tears in the eyes of the section runners-up, on their way back to the locker room, were visual evidence.
But there is a small consolation for the Wingers. All but one, senior Sophia DiNatale, will be back next winter, with the goal of returning to state. Since 2009, the first time Red Wing made the state tournament, this is the first time the Wingers will have missed it two seasons in a row.
And if Heise's postgame comments were any clue, don't bet on the streak becoming three seasons long.
“It's definitely motivation,” Heise said. “I've been on this team since seventh grade. I've been waiting for the chance to do this on our own. We're going to go. We're going to go to state. If we work our butts off, we'll get there.”