By Rob LaPlante
The North Wright County hockey team could easily change its name from River Hawks to Road Warriors.
The Hawks have played only four home games, posting a 3-1 record at their home rinks of STMA Arena and Moose-Sherritt in Monticello. More impressive is their 8-1-1 road record.
“We should just buy the bus,” said head coach Jason Johnson, jokingly. “We’ve played 15 games so far and only one at St. Michael. We’ve really beefed up our schedule and when you do that, someone has to bite the bullet and play on the road. But we’re playing top-end teams and that’s what we want.”
The Hawks were at Andover on Dec. 18. Marina Chapman and Andover’s Mikayla Goodin would exchange third-period goals as the No. 14 ranked River Hawks skated to a 1-1 tie with the No. 10 ranked Huskies.
NWC junior goalie Alex LaMere stopped 41-of-42 shots. At one point, the Hawks were outshot 30-6, but LaMere was up to the challenge and the game remained scoreless after two periods.
Andover was the fifth consecutive ranked opponent for the River Hawks. NWC went 4-0-1 over that span against the Huskies, Thief River Falls, Roseau, Rogers and Buffalo. The Hawks have posted a 5-2-1 overall record this season against ranked opponents in either Class A or AA. The only losses came against Red Wing and Wayzata.
The streak of games against ranked opponents came to an end Dec. 20 when they knocked off Elk River 4-2. Trailing 2-1 heading into the final period, the Hawks rallied with goals from senior’s Emily Achterkirch, Rachel Heiber and Dani Sibley to get the come-from-behind victory.
“We scored two power play goals and killed off a 5-on-3 to end the game,” Johnson said. “We have a team that is finding a way right now to win games.”
Senior goalie Dayna Duncan stopped 16 shots to earn her fourth win of the season.
The Hawks closed out the week with a 2-1 victory last Saturday at Centennial. It was the eighth straight game without a loss for the River Hawks.
Chapman again would open up the scoring and freshman Greta Stanton scored the eventual game-winning goal at 7:46 of the second period. LaMere stopped 25-of-26 shots to improve her record to 8-1-1. LaMere ranks among the state leaders in goals against average of 1.07 and .954 save percentage.
The Hawks are off until Jan. 8 when they host Cambridge-Isanti at the STMA Arena.
“We’re at a point right now, we’re pretty tired,” Johnson said. “Physically and mentally it’s been a grind. Our girls are at the midpoint of the season and with five straight games against ranked teams with all but one of those on the road, it takes a toll on you. It will be nice to have a bit of a break to rest up.”