Girls hockey: Raptors turn tables on rival Royals with playoff winThe Woodbury girls hockey team enjoyed its best stretch of the year last week, defeating intra-district rivals Park and East Ridge to cap the regular season. However East Ridge evened the score, beating the Royals 3-2 in the opening round of the Section 3AA playoffs, on Monday, Feb. 6, at Bielenberg Sports Complex, ending Woodbury’s season.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
The area’s most familiar hockey teams got to know each other even better over the past week.
The Woodbury girls hockey team enjoyed its best stretch of the year last week, defeating intra-district rivals Park and East Ridge to cap the regular season. However East Ridge evened the score, beating the Royals 3-2 in the opening round of the Section 3AA playoffs, on Monday, Feb. 6, at Bielenberg Sports Complex, ending Woodbury’s season.
“I don’t know what it was, but our girls didn’t look like they came ready to play when the puck dropped,” Woodbury head coach Shantel Rivard said. “East Ridge did. They came with a hunger.”
In the playoff game, Woodbury (3-22-1; 2-16-0 SEC) opened a 2-0 first-period lead. However, East Ridge – which poured on 38 shots in the game – came back for the win. East Ridge sophomore Olivia Henderson tied the game 1:57 into the third period, then freshman Danielle Waldon scored the game-winning goal with 6:36 left to play and East Ridge held on for the victory – East Ridge’s first-ever playoff victory.
“It didn’t look good early, but we hung in there and persevered,” East Ridge first-year head coach Craig Norwich said. “We played with more girls and it really showed in the second and third period. We really started to control play and had most of the chances.”
Woodbury sophomore Mandy McAlpine opened the scoring in the game, with a power-play goal with 3:04 remaining in the first period to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. Then, just over a minute later, eighth grader Livia Twohig gave Woodbury a 2-0 adantage with an unassisted goal. In the second period, though, East Ridge sophomore Kayla Bender cut the deficit to 2-1 with a goal with 3:29 left, setting up Henderson and Waldon to provide the heroics.
“This was a big game, because if we lose we’re done,” Norwich said. “I told the girls I wasn’t ready to go to Florida just yet. What was really good to see was that the girls stuck with the game plan and it worked out because we wore them down.”
In the net, Woodbury’s Kaelan Geisser made 35 saves in the loss. East Ridge junior Katie Ahmann had 14 saves to earn the win.
The loss ended the high school hockey careers of two Woodbury seniors – captain and leading scorer Rachel Letsche and forward and team captain Jessica Krinke. Each player has been with the program since they were eighth graders.
“Obviously, they’ve had a big impact on the program,” Rivard said. “Rachel is on our power play and our penalty kill and was the spark of this team for the most part. Jess was out with injuries a lot this year which was unfortunate, because she has such a passion for this sport and for this program.
“Next year, we’ll just have to continue to grow and stay positive. It is potentially going to be a very similar season to this season. The numbers coming up aren’t big in the near future. The numbers are falling in the East Ridge boundary. We’ll have to find ways to make it work and keep building.”
With the victory, the Raptors (6-16-4; 2-13-3 SEC) earned a date with No. 1-seed and ninth-ranked Eagan on Wednesday, Feb. 8, in Eagan. The Wildcats (19-3-3) beat East Ridge 6-0 earlier this season.
“I think we’ll give them a game,” Norwich said. “We’ll do better than the first time we played them.”
The playoff game between East Ridge and Woodbury, which played as a cooperative two seasons ago, came just three days after the two teams faced off in the regular season finale – a game Woodbury won 3-0.
“The girls played one of their best games of the year,” Rivard said. “Everybody was on and everybody had a great game.”
Woodbury freshman Erin Goodell scored the game’s first goal – just 2:46 into the first period – and that was all the Royals and Geisser needed. The win was Geisser’s first shutout of the year – and first of her varsity career.
“Since the Stillwater game, she’s been like a new goalie,” Rivard said. “She has been very steady and has been making some big saves.”
Geisser also was a difference-maker in Woodbury’s upset win over Park last week. The junior goalie made 39 saves as the Royals surprised Park 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Cottage Grove Ice Arena. It was Woodbury’s first conference win of the year.
“That was the biggest win of the year,” Rivard said. “Park’s a really good team with really good goaltending. They were seeded No. 2 in our section.”
Woodbury was 7-for-7 on the penalty kill and 1-for-2 on the power play in the win.
“You can’t get much better than that,” Rivard said.
Tied 2-2 with the Wolfpack, Letsche delivered the game-winning goal for Woodbury 2:06 into overtime off a nifty pass from freshman Kayla Falconer for the win. In addition to Letsche, sophomore Sarah Wahlin and McAlpine each netted goals for the Royals and Falconer tallied two assists.
According to Rivard, the win over Park proved how much the team improved this year.
“The girls worked very hard and we’ve had our moments and our successes along the way,” Rivard said. “But, to have the hard work and effort and the win on the scoreboard was very well-deserved by the girls and fun to see.”
Prior to splitting with Woodbury, East Ridge fell 4-2 to 11th-ranked Mounds View on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Bielenberg.
In the game, freshman Maggie Ahmann got the Raptors started on the right foot, making it a 1-0 game with a power-play goal 6:30 into the first period. However, Mounds View (18-6-1; 14-3-1 SEC) scored three straight first-period goals to take control, then held on for the win. In addition to Maggie Ahmann, who had a goal and an assist, freshman Brenley Goertzen scored her first varsity goal for the Raptors and Katie Ahmann made 41 saves between the pipes.
Overall, East Ridge has had over 30 different girls play for the varsity team this season.
“Everybody got a shot,” Norwich said. “I wanted to play a lot of kids to see what I have. I got a good idea. We’re off to a good start.”