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Woodbury girls hockey: Royals overmatched in season opener

Woodbury junior Kayla Falconer scored the Royals’ lone goal in a season-opening 4-1 Suburban East Conference loss to Cretin-Derham Hall on Saturday in St. Paul. (Bulletin photo by Matthew Davis)

Suburban East Conference contender Cretin-Derham Hall proved to be too much for Woodbury in a season-opening loss.

“Cretin’s a very strong team,” Royals coach Chris Lepper said. “They’re probably the conference favorite. I think they’ll probably be a top 10 team in the state.”

The Royals fell 4-1 to the Raiders on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Highland Arena in St. Paul.

The Raiders, No. 18 in the preseason Class AA poll, jumped out right away with Natalie Kelly scoring at 1 minute, 34 seconds into the contest. Royals senior goalie Kaelan Geisser surrendered another goal late in the period for a 2-0 deficit as the Radiers’ Paige Voight scored.

Kayla Falconer got the Royals on the board late in the second period when she scored a power play goal unassisted at 11:51. Unfortunately for the Royals, the 2-1 score lasted only a few minutes as Voight scored her second goal at 15:22 to make it 3-1.

The Royals had just started working on their power play in their last couple of practices. Practices could not start until Oct. 28 as required by the Minnesota State High School League, less than two weeks before the Nov. 9 opener.

“We didn’t start our power play until Thursday,” Royals junior forward Erin Goodell said. “It was tough to work it during a game, but I thought we did all right with it.”

As the game wore on, the Royals gained momentum in controlling the puck, but a stretch of three shots on goal in less than a minute did not turn up a goal. Kim Taplin, Livia Twohig and Shannon Mtozko had attacked the net for the Royals in that stretch.

“There’s a lot of bounces that didn’t go our way, but we’ll get them the next time,” Goodell said. “We tell ourselves that we know it’s there, so we just keep working for it.”

The Raiders tacked on a goal from Jordan Hanson in the final 10 minutes of the game to seal the win. Geisser, a third-year starter, persisted in net for the Royals, stopping 40 of 44 shots. Three of the goals she allowed came off rebounds.

“We’ve got to do a better job of picking up some of the people that are crashing in the net, so they can’t get any of the rebounds,” Lepper said.

The Royals had 22 shots in the game, and they had eight in both the second and third periods after mustering only three in the opening frame. They hope to build on their 6-18-2 season from last year with a large crew of returning players, including six seniors.

“I think we’re going to make it far,” Geisser said. “This is a good team. We work together; we know who each other are.”

The Royals (0-1, 0-1 SEC) have a northwestern Minnesota road trip coming up with East Grand Forks on Friday and Moorhead on Saturday, both section finalists last season. The Royals have their home opener on Thursday, Nov. 21 against the Saint Paul Blades. The Blades, a co-op of Saint Paul high schools, regularly struggle with losing records.

“I think we’re in really good shape moving forward throughout the season as long as we stay healthy,” Lepper said.

-Matthew Davis