Benilde-St. Margaret’s Kelly Pannek (19) was congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal in the first period of Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Irondale.
Benilde-St. Margaret's girls' hockey coach Dave Herbst got angry with his team for negating a first period power play with a penalty of its own.
It was no rush to judgment. The past dozen or so games against North Suburban Conference rival Irondale have taught Herbst the danger in letting the Knights hang around.
Unable to fully capitalize on early chances Tuesday at the Schwan Super Rink, the No. 1-ranked Red Knights were forced to sweat out a 2-1 victory over No. 12 Irondale (18-3-1).
Two of the state's top sophomores, Benilde's Kelly Pannek and Irondale's Samantha Donovan, each scored a goal. Pannek's power-play goal 1 minute and 3 seconds into the game gave her team and early lead while Donovan's breakaway goal in the third period set up a tense finish.
The latter was a scenario Herbst hoped to avoid. The Red Knights (18-2-1) went on a second power play not long after Pannek scored her 37th goal this season. Herbst believed another goal was imminent.
"Our power play scores 35 percent of the time," he said. "But instead we take a penalty to go 4 on 4."
The Red Knights outshot Irondale 36-12 but could not pull away. The main obstacle? Irondale senior goaltender Gillian McDonald.
"We rolled three lines at them all night and I thought we'd wear her down," Herbst said. "But she weathered the storm. They always give us a run for our money."
Trailing 2-0 after two periods, Irondale's players decided to change their mindset. Coach Tom Rodefeld said his team, which lost to the Red Knights 3-1 on Dec. 20, "played the first five periods of these games not to lose. They finally decided to try and put pressure on them."
It worked. Pouncing on a Red Knights turnover at the Irondale blue line, Donovan streaked in to score her state-best 46th goal of the season. The goal came on just the 10th Knights shot. But Benilde-St. Margaret's closed out its 15th victory in the past 16 games.
Taking stock of both teams, Rodefeld credited Benilde-St. Margaret's for an ability to "feed off each other and go hard to open spots knowing a teammate will get them the puck.
"We're getting there."