Girls Hockey: East Ridge advances to section finals, Woodbury reflects on memorable season
East Ridge 5, Park 2
Before the game started on Saturday morning, East Ridge head coach Kim McClintick was sitting by herself on the bench.
She wasn't looking at anything, but just stared at the ice on the rink.
Nobody else was around her as the East Ridge and Park girls hockey players were already in their locker rooms.
As McClintick was sitting there, the nerves sank in as she began to realize she was coaching in a section semifinal game. As a first-year head coach, this was all new territory for her.
She got up from her spot and walked over to the locker room. When she was heading over there, she said three words that rang in the Raptors ears all game long.
"Here we go."
East Ridge hosted Park in the Section 3AA semifinal game for girls hockey on Saturday. It wasn't just a rivalry game, it was a chance to go to the section finals.
The Raptors had earned the first two wins in the regular season, but that record was wiped away for this playoff game.
"You could definitely it was a section game with the crowds and aggressive play from both teams," said East Ridge's Addi Scribner. "I'm just proud of my teammates for pushing through adversity and coming out with the win."
East Ridge advanced to the section finals game on Wednesday, Feb. 13 as the Raptors defeated Park in a 5-2 final score.
The first period went in Park's favor as the Wolfpack found the back of the net a couple times. Both goals came from Adie Stienke as she gave the Wolfpack a 2-0 lead.
"My teammates were finding me really well and I was able to give us the early lead," Stienke said.
East Ridge came back though in the first to cut the lead in half as Mackenzie Werner earned a goal for the Raptors.
Once the intermission hit before the second period, McClintick went into the locker and had all the girls raise their hands. Then, she had them flush the first period away and focus on a new game.
That trick worked as Fiona Claughtery and Scribner each earned a goal in the second to make it a 3-2 lead for East Ridge. The Raptors tacked on two more in the third period from Lauren Beaubien and Claughtery to give them a 5-2 lead and eventual win.
The win cemented East Ridge's spot in the section finals for the second time in school history. It also gives the nine seniors on the team a chance to play one more game in the Raptor jersey and it's also one game away from the state tournament.
"It's great to see everyone clicking at the right time," McClintick said. "You could see it forming throughout the game and I couldn't be more proud of how our girls played throughout this game."
Park's head coach Steve Morse felt the exact same thing. He was proud of the girls for the season they had and not quitting, specifically, during the section tournament because it led to the Wolfpack upsetting No. 2 seed Burnsville.
"This is the funniest season I've ever had," Morse said. "They loved each other. If they won the game, they loved each other. If they lost the game, they loved each other."
The three seniors on this team is one of the main things Morse is going to miss because each of them had a different journey to get to this point.
For Megan Morris, she's been with Park hockey since eighth grade and Morse has seen the growth. He's been able to see her grow as a hockey player and a person for the last five years and it's been fun to see.
For Britney Frandrup, she's fairly new to this team. She transferred from East Ridge last year and didn't play last season. This was her first season and Morse was happy to have her on the team because she contributed with goals, but also knowledge of the game.
For Molly Jensen, she's battled through a couple serious injuries. She had two ACL injuries during her high school career. Morse said her battle to comeback after the injuries shows an awful lot about her.
Morse is proud of these three seniors and the accomplishments they've had throughout this season, but in their overall careers.
"This senior class led in the right way with their character," said Park's Jocelyn Veary. "They will be missed next season, but they helped form this program for the future."
Stienke and Veary both agreed to keep your eyes on Park girls hockey next year because they have a lot of experience back and they are ready to continue fighting each game again next year.
As for East Ridge, the Raptors will play on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Community Center in Inver Grove Heights. They will face the No. 1 seed Eagan, who defeated No. 4 seed Apple Valley on Saturday night with a 1-0 final.
Stillwater 2, Woodbury 1
It was a fight until the very last second for the Woodbury girls hockey team. That described their entire season as the Royals fought in every game and never gave up.
With seven seconds left on the clock and Woodbury trailing 2-1 to Stillwater on Saturday night in the section quarterfinals, the Royals had a fast break and they took two or three strong shots at the net. None of the shots connected, which resulted in a 2-1 win for Stillwater and the end of Woodbury's season.
Even though the Royals didn't get the win, head coach Chris Lepper was so proud of this season and this team.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team and these players," Lepper said. "The growth they've made from beginning to end is amazing and we've had some fun memories along the way."
Those memories include defeating White Bear Lake twice this season and enjoying the bus ride back home from those victories. There was also the win against Bemidji in Hockey Day Minnesota at the end of January. Those are only a couple of many in the back of Lepper's head this season.
As for Saturday's game, it was a tight one and the girls knew that coming in. The Royals also knew they were the underdogs with being the No. 6 seed and Stillwater being the No. 3 seed, but Woodbury was up for the challenge.
Woodbury got on the board first with a goal from Hayley Zwakman in the first period. Stillwater came right back and tied it up before the end of the first period.
That 1-1 tie stayed the score for the majority of the second period until the Ponies scored one more goal with three minutes left in the second.
Then, it became a defensive performance as no teams scored in the third period and Stillwater won the game.
Even though the Royals didn't come out with the win, Annika Johnson and Lexie Decker agreed that there's nothing they would change about this season.
"It's been an unbelievable season with so many memories," Johnson said. "It's hard to see your high school career be done, but I know the future looks bright for Woodbury."
Lepper said these five seniors are special to him because they've experienced the beginning of the Royals growth and they've also experienced today's team. This class has helped build and shape this program to be what it is today and he couldn't thank the seniors enough for their contributions.
These five seniors include Decker, Johnson, Alison Langert, Paige Skordahl and Allison Beix.
"The worst part about the season being over is that you don't get to see these players on a regular basis," Lepper said. "When you see these girls every day at practice or games, it's sad to know that's not going to happen until next winter season."
In the end, the players and the coaches had a fun season and learned a lot about each other and themselves. Most importantly, they learned a lot about hockey and how to have fun on the ice.
"If I could take back this entire season, I wouldn't change a thing," Decker said. "Every moment was fun and meaningful, so I wouldn't change a thing. It was a great season to close out our high school hockey careers."
East Ridge 3, Rosemount 2
While the snow was falling outside, the East Ridge girls hockey had pucks falling into the net inside.
The Raptors, who were seeded No. 3 in the section, hosted No. 6 seed Rosemount on Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Section 3AA girls hockey tournament.
Head coach Kim McClintick said she was hoping the girls would be excited and that would lead to goals right away to start off the section game. That's exactly what happened, which gave East Ridge a comfortable lead in the first period.
"It was great to see our girls get on the board first and extend that lead later on," McClintick said. "That's what you need to do in the section tournament because every team is going to play their best game of hockey now."
It was a 0-0 game throughout the majority of the first period until East Ridge had a power play opportunity. Sidney Zavoral took full advantage and connected on a goal with about five minutes left. Mackenzie Werner set up the shot for Zavoral and was credited with the assist.
"We just wanted to keep taking shots at the net all game long," said Fiona Claugherty. "We knew a few would go through the goalie and luckily we were able to get on the board first."
It looked like the score was going to remain 1-0 heading into the second period, until the final seconds of the first period.
With about six seconds left in the first, McClintick shouted from the bench to take a shot at the net. Once the shot came off the stick, Katie Flynn skated towards the net anticipating a deflection.
The deflection occurred and Flynn was able to connect with the puck to score a second goal before the second period. After scoring, Flynn and Addi Scribner looked up at the scoreboard and saw 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock.
"That a huge momentum shift for us because we were up two goals instead of one," Flynn said. "I was just hoping the puck would go in before time ran out. Luckily, we were able to get the goal."
Claugherty said she noticed the Rosemount girls looking a little defeated after the last-second goal. During the intermission, the Raptors made sure to pressure the Irish to make sure they didn't come back in the game.
The Raptors did just that as Mackenzie Werner connected on a goal in the second period with about three minutes left. That gave East Ridge a 3-0 lead, but Rosemount earned its first goal 23 seconds later.
The 3-1 score went into the third period, but East Ridge made sure to keep that pressure on Rosemount for the last period. It was a strong defensive performance for the Raptors, but at the end of the game all the eyes focused on East Ridge's goalie Emerald Kelley.
Kelley was a huge part of this game and especially in the last 30 seconds of the game on Wednesday. Rosemount scored with 34 seconds left in the game to make it a 3-2 game.
In the last 34 seconds, East Ridge tried to get the puck out Rosemount's offense. The Irish took a handful of shots at Kelley during those last 30 seconds, but she scooped up every shot.
"She's one of the main reasons why we're here," Scribner said. "She's been unbelievable this season. Some goalies step up during section tournaments and some stray away. Emerald has definitely stepped up and it showed tonight."
East Ridge thought this would be its last home game of the season, but the Raptors soon learned that No. 7 seed Park upset No. 2 Burnsville on Wednesday night to advance in the tournament.
That meant East Ridge was hosting one more game on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. at the HealthEast Sports Center. The Raptors have had the upper hand this season against Park as East Ridge won both games with 3-0 and 4-1 final scores.
"We're excited to be back at a place we're familiar with and have all of our fans in the stands," Scribner said. "It's hard to beat a team three times in a season, but it'll be a fun rivalry game for a trip to the section finals."