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Girls' Hockey: Red Wing takes Faribault to its limit, falls in section semifinal

Wingers goaltender Hailey Ehlers (1) stretches out to stop a loose puck. Ehlers made 16 saves in the Section 1A semifinal on Feb. 9. Martin Schlegel / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Madison Synder (10) of Red Wing gets tied up on her shot attempt in tight on the Faribault goalie during the Section 1A semifinal on Feb. 9. Martin Schlegel / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Emily Hart (4) of Red Wing fires a shot on net in the Section 1A semifinal on Feb. 9. Martin Schlegel / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Falling just short, the Red Wing girls' hockey team gave Faribault all it could handle on Saturday. The Falcons hung on to win 5-4 over the Wingers in a Section 1A semifinal.

The Falcons, the top team in the Big Nine this season and the No. 2 seed in the section, were forced to keep up with the younger, less experienced Wingers. The third-seeded Wingers outshot the Falcons 31-21 and matched them in offensive zone time. To lose, playing the best, most competitive hockey of the season left a sour feeling in the locker room after the game.

"We were ruled out from day one," said Red Wing head coach Nicole Olson. "To end the season, outshooting our opponent, I think outplaying our opponent, that's been the story line of our season. It hurts to lose that way, but the girls should keep their heads high."

The Falcons went ahead 5-3 at 11 minutes, 1 second of the third period. Olson quickly called a timeout. The Wingers had nearly six minutes to try and score two goals to at the very least tie it. Had the game been played earlier in the season, the Wingers likely wouldn't have made a late game push. Yet, here the Wingers were down by two goals, and still very much in it with a chance to comeback.

"The girls knew to bounce back," Olson said. "They weren't giving up, and we proved that till the end."

“We knew we were still in it,” said senior captain Delaynee Fox on Monday. “It was just getting us rested in that timeout and telling everyone to stay positive.”

Eliza DiNatale, who had a goal in the first period, parked in front of the net. Emily Hart fed her the puck and DiNatale had a couple whacks at it. The third attempt slipped past Falcons goalie Mikayla Bohner at 12:56. DiNatale's effort got the Wingers back to within one, trailing 5-4 with four minutes to go in the third period.

In the final four minutes, the Wingers continued to apply pressure to get the tying goal. The Falcons withstood the pressure and escaped with the win.

The loss to Faribault showed just how far the Wingers have come as a team. To fall by one made the season-ending loss hard to swallow.

"We were one short of going to an overtime and seeing what would happen," Olson said. "That's kind of how hockey works sometimes. I'm just really proud of our girls."

The scoring started with the Wingers getting the first goal of the game. Margaret Grove wristed one past four Falcon defenders, three of her teammates and the goalie at 1:59 of the first period.

Hart, surprised the shot made it through the traffic in front of the net, said the team really thrived off the first goal.

“During the season we would outshoot teams, but we could never get one in the back of the net,” Hart said on Monday. “Some of the younger kids stepped up and that's when we started getting those goals right away. When we would score within the first couple minutes, that helped keep the intensity up throughout the rest of the period and the game.”

The Falcons tied it up later in the first with a goal from Abigail Goodwin at 13:28. Exactly two minutes later, DiNatale buried her first of two goals on the night. Faribault responded quickly with a goal in the final minute of the first period.

Heading into the second period tied 2-2, Hart broke the tie with a goal 24 seconds in. The Falcons erased its deficit and took the lead with a goal at 5:21 of the second period and another 24 seconds later. The 4-3 Falcons lead stood until the 11:01 of the third period when the Falcons made it 5-3. After DiNatale's goal, the Wingers pulled goalie Hailey Ehlers to get an extra skater for the final few minutes of play.

Ehlers, who took a beating in net getting run over by a Falcons player twice, stopped 16 shots.

"Hailey has been a stud for us this year," Olson said. "She's kept us in games, she's made amazing saves. Unfortunately, tonight we just didn't score enough."

Red Wing ended the season 8-17-2 overall. Faribault will face top-seeded Lourdes for the section title. The Eagles beat fifth-seeded Albert Lea 7-3 in the other semifinal.

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