By Rob LaPlante
The North Wright County hockey team sat for nearly an eight-hour bus ride for a weekend road trip in back-to-back games at Roseau and Thief River Falls. In the end, it was the River Hawks skating home with a pair of victories and improving its overall record to 10-2 on the season.
The Hawks started the week last Tuesday with a 5-2 conference victory over Rogers.
Emily Antony and Jenna Nelson gave host Rogers an early 2-0 advantage. But NWC rallied for five unanswered goals, including a pair from senior Rachel Heiber, to help knock off its cross-town rival.
Senior Maddi Sjelin, sophomore’s Rachel King and Marina Chapman also scored goals and senior Dayna Duncan made 10 saves to earn the win.
The win was the third straight for the Hawks and Rogers fell to 1-7-2 overall after a 2-2 tie with Mound-Westonka and dropping a 7-3 contest to International Falls.
The Knights won their third straight game after a pair of Iron Range wins last Friday and Saturday.
Two hours after a long bus ride, Chapman opened the scoring in a matchup of top-20 teams in Class AA. NWC came in ranked No. 17 and Roseau was at No. 15. The early lead was key said head coach Jason Johnson.
“Obviously, after a long bus ride you are worried a bit how you’re going to start out,” Johnson said. “We talked about how important it is in games to be ready from the drop of the puck and our girls were up to the task.”
Leading scorer Dani Sibley was held in check against Rogers, but the senior captain notched a pair of second-period goals, giving the Hawks a 3-0 lead and bringing her season total to 14.
The line of Sibley, Heiber and junior Kaliegh Hamann continue to dominate offensively. The trio has combined for 60 points this season.
“I’ve said in public that their line could play with any top line in the state,” Johnson said. “Those three have been clicking, but we’re also not afraid to try different combinations.”
Hamann would make it 4-0 before Roseau spoiled junior goalie Alex LaMere’s shutout bid with a late breakaway goal by Bailey Holter. LaMere came into the contest tied for the most shutouts in state with four.
“The bigger the game the better with Alex,” Johnson said. “She rarely gives up a goal on a first shot and her play gives us a chance every night out.”
LaMere would stand tall again the following night as the Hawks won a 2-1 overtime thriller at Class A’s No. 4-ranked Thief River Falls.
The Prowlers (8-2-1 overall) play at the mini-Ralph Engelstad, the multi-million dollar arena built by the former University of North Dakota tycoon.
“A lot of the girls were playing there for the first time and it was a little bit of an eye opening experience,” Johnson said.
Thief River Falls’ Kora Torkelson would score on a breakaway giving the Prowlers a 1-0 lead with a second period goal. Less than three minutes passed, before Heiber scored her 10th goal of the season on the power play, with an assist to freshman Greta Stanton.
The game was finally decided at 3:13 of overtime when Maddi Sjelin buried the game winner with assist from junior Maddi Young. LaMere stopped 30 of 31 shots to pick up the win.
NWC was at Andover Tuesday night and Thursday night at 7 p.m. they are at Elk River/Zimmerman. Saturday at 3 p.m. they are at Centennial. Andover was ranked No. 16 in Class AA. It was the fifth straight game the Hawks played against ranked opponents.