by Bruce Strand
The Rogers and Chisago Lakes girls played the first high school hockey game at Handke Stadium’s outdoor rink in over 40 years Tuesday, Jan. 14.
With the temperature dipping below 10 degrees, this was an honor to be endured as well as enjoyed. Mental toughness was required of both players and fans, especially when the game went overtime.
Finally, a top-shelf shot by Madison Lehn settled the issue in Rogers’ favor, 3-2, and released the shivering audience to head for their cars.
“Thank you, Madison!” one fan yelled at Lehn as the crowd filed out, past the players.
“I do what I can,” beamed the senior forward, who had two of her team’s three goals.
The outdoor game on the ancient skating hole, which was the Elks home ice from 1958 to about 1970, marvelously transformed into a bona fide hockey rink in a $24,000 project, was one of many this week leading up Hockey Day in Minnesota’s three televised games Saturday when both Elk teams will take the ice. There’s been youth hockey games, an Elk alumni game is set for Wednesday evening, and the Rogers boys face Fergus Falls on Thursday evening.
“This was something the girls will remember for a long time,” said Rogers coach Dale Sager, “and they probably won’t ever be able to do again. We made a lot of memories.”
The coach noted that the action was slower-paced than usual, especially the first period.
“It was COLD. But once the girls were mentally able to get over the cold, it was a good game. By the third period it was even colder but they were complaining a lot less. And it sure helped to be able to come back and get a win.”
Lehn, a senior forward, gave the unique experience a thumb’s up.
“It was fun,” said Lehn. “You’d skate around and get warm, then stop and get a little cold, but then start skating again and it was fine.”
Asked about how the outdoor ice felt, she said, “The ice felt pretty normal, although sometimes you could feel cracks.”
Rogers improved to 6-2 in the Mississippi 8 and 11-7-1 overall. Chisago Lakes dropped to 3-6 and 9-10.
Lehn opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period. Seven of her team-leading 19 goals have come on power plays.
Chisago Lakes notched the next two goals but Rogers sophomore Olivia Olson scored late in the second period, assisted by Gabrielle Billing, to knot the score 2-2.
The tie stood through the third period. Rogers had a couple one-on-one breakaways but missed the net. The Royals and goalie Michelle Klimstra withstood skating 3-on-4 and 4-on-5 late in the period.
Three minutes into the overtime, Lehn was about 12 feet in front of the net when she got the puck from Olson and drilled it over the goalie’s shoulder.