Girls hockey nets two comeback victories
BY DAVID PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
There may have been a little pressure on Delano-Rockford boys hockey team’s first forward line since it represents almost all of the returning leadership.
Coach Steve Brown said the team returned four regular varsity players, three forming the first line of seniors Eric Ylitalo and Adam McLain, along with junior Justin Oja.
The line accounted for all seven goals and eight assists in the 7-0 shutout of Hutchinson last week. Oja had three goals and three assists. Ylitalo added three goals and two assist and McLain had one goal and three assists. Goalie Brett Norling made 26 saves to post the shutout.
“Each of the three is an excellent teammate and a real big reason why this year’s team has been successful,” said Brown about the 11-8 record. “The example that these guys set up front really helped to set a tone of success for this young team.”
Delano-Rockford also faced league leading Holy Family (7-0) and lost 4-2 in a hard-fought game. Steven Lewis and Oja scored the goals and Norling made 36 saves. In the last couple of weeks the team lost three overtime games.
The team has been struggling through some injury issues. Senior goalie Aaron Grangroth, who has alternated with Norling, suffered a concussion against Mound-Westonka and should return at some point next week.
Junior center Chet Halonen suffered a broken jaw and it is not sure if he will be able to return.
Ylitalo leads with 45 points, while Oja has 35 and McLain 33. As a center, McLain has to take more defensive responsibility. This is the third varsity season for Ylitalo and McLain, while Oja is in his second year.
“All three can easily be identified by their work ethic,” says Brown. “They are very committed to do a ton of extras to make themselves better. They are consistently the last varsity players to leave the rink every night.”
Brown adds how the three forwards all bring a little different skill set. McLain is really quick and is an excellent passer who excels at making plays in tight spaces. The coach adds how Ylitalo is 6-2, plus has a long stride that makes him deceptively fast and has a real accurate wrist shot coming in off the wing.
Oja is an explosive skater who is really active in all the tough areas of the ice, notes Brown. He works real well in the corners and makes plays in front of the net.
“All three are team players who come from bigger families and are used to making sacrifices,” adds Brown. “I have never heard any of these three complain, even if their coach was pushing them extremely hard in practice.”
The other lines involve seniors Levi Peterson and Mike Krueger with junior Nick Pogue. Juniors Jack Nelson and Hunter Hart skate with sophomore Adam Eskola. Juniors Reid Ylitalo and Steven Lewis are with sophomore Brady Miller.
Defenders are senior Josh Dzurik; juniors Grant Prinsen and Lars Halonen and sophomores Dan Keranen and Nate Meyers.
Brown said he does not fret about the overtime defeats. He called the loss to Rochester Lourdes, “a terrific game with us having absolutely nothing to feel bad about. It was two teams playing really well and trading blows.”
The area girls hockey team rallied from behind in both games last week, winning both by a goal.
The team that includes players from Rockford, Delano and Buffalo trailed Orono late in the third period. A short-handed goal by Madi Jewell tied the game, sending it to overtime where Jewell netted another short-handed goal to win the game 3-2.
Orono came into the game ranked fourth in Class A while the Bison were ranked 10th in Class AA. The Bison tied the game in the first period on a goal by Lindsay Roethke.
Earlier in the week the Bison got behind North Wright County 3-1 before winning 4-3 and avenging a loss early in the season.
Jewell narrowed the deficit to 2-1 with an unassisted goal. Katie Rooney and Allison Roethke scored second period goals to tie the game and Rooney netted the game-winner in the third.
Goalie Lindsey Hartfiel stopped 17 shots in the final period alone. Coach Ray Dahlof also gave credit to defenders Emily Varner, MacKenzie Rixe, Allison Roethke and Ashley Effertz.
The victory moves the Bison into a tie for first place in the Mississippi 8 conference with one game remaining at Princeton Tuesday, Feb. 5. The last regular season game is Friday, Feb. 1 against Maple Grove at the Delano Sports Complex.
The Section 6AA seeding meeting will be held on Sunday, Feb. 3. All games will be at Parade Ice Garden starting Saturday, Feb. 9. Dahlof said it may be the toughest section in the state again with four teams ranked in the top 10 and two more in the top 20.
Contact David Pedersen at [email protected]