By Rob LaPlante
Two Class AA powers matched wits Saturday afternoon at STMA Arena and the No. 7 rated Wayzata Trojans finished on top of a 3-1 score over the No. 19 ranked North Wright County girls’ hockey team.
The Trojans (6-0) came into the showdown averaging a stingy 1.20 goals against in five prior wins. The River Hawks (5-2) came in scoring an average of six goals in six prior games.
“They really do a good job of transitioning and we knew that going in,” said head coach Jason Johnson, on facing one of the Lake Conference’s top teams. Wayzata butts heads in the Lake with usual powers; Minnetonka, Edina, Eden Prairie and Hopkins. As of Sunday, the conference had an overall record of 25-3-6 overall.
“They play in a tough conference and play a lot of tough section opponents,” Johnson said. “You know they are a team that’s going to give you a good barometer of where you’re at.”
With strength versus strength, it was the Trojans Kaitlyn Klein striking first when she broke down the right wing alone and slipped a shot past NWC junior goaltender Alex LaMere.
At 8:13 of the first period, junior forward Maddi Young banged home a loose puck from a wild goal mouth scramble that tied the score 1-1. Senior captain Maddi Sjelin assisted on what turned out to be the lone goal the River Hawks would put behind Wayzata goalie Paige Marcy.
The Hawks were fortunate to be tied after one period. They killed off three penalties, including a two-man advantage in the opening 17 minutes. “Our penalty kill did very well, especially killing that 5-on-3 advantage early,” Johnson said.
Wayzata scored the eventual game winner in the second period off the stick of Carly Noble. Wayzata’s junior captain added insurance in the third period with a late power play goal.
“They had five power plays to our zero,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if Wayzata played a perfect game, but I can’t imagine that happens too many times at any level where a team goes through a whole game without seeing one power play.”
While she has had her share of games without seeing many shots, LaMere kept the Hawks in the game stopping a season high 35 of 38 shots.
“I haven’t really been fully tested yet,” said LaMere who has three shutouts so far this season. “I thrive in big games. I like getting a lot of shots and the Wayzata game was a lot of fun for me, because I did get so many shots.”
One of the three mentioned shutouts came last Thursday night in a 6-0 win at Spring Lake Park. LaMere stopped all 17 Panther shots, earning her fourth win of the season.
“My team’s done a phenomenal job all season blocking shots and keeping the puck in the other zone,” LaMere said.
The offense was provided from Dani Sibley. The senior captain scored a goal in each period and recorded her second consecutive hat trick, lifting her goal total to 10 on the season. Sibley added two assists and her line of junior Kaleigh Hamann and senior Rachel Heiber accounted for eight total points in the win.
“The Brainerd game and the Spring Lake Park game they were a very dominant line,” Johnson said. “What made them so successful is how much they shared the puck. They were making 6-to-8 foot passes and finding their support. They are a top-end line and can play with any line in the state.”
The River Hawks hosted St. Cloud Tuesday night at Monticello. At 7 p.m. this Thursday is their first showdown with arch rival Buffalo at the Civic Center.