Forest Lake senior goalie Abbi White has a 2.01 goals-against average and six shutouts this season.Rangers coach Ryan Sauter said, “She’s the No. 1 person back there.” Photo: David Joles • email@example.com
Athletes sometimes approach their last year of high school with one foot out the door and an eye toward the future. The result can be: lesser effort and commitment that fuels substandard performance.
That is not Forest Lake goaltender Abbi White. Not in the least.
"You know sometimes you think maybe there will be a senior letdown here," Rangers girls' hockey coach Ryan Sauter said. "This has been anything but that. She's been exceptional. She's really taken personal responsibility in her development and work ethic. She's our leader."
White has registered a 2.01 goals-against average to go with six shutouts for the Rangers. Her .929 save percentage was second-best in the conference. She stopped 40 of 41 shots to help upset Cretin-Derham Hall 2-1 last month when the Raiders were a top-20 team in the state. White then stopped 32 of 33 shots in a victory over Hastings, which was ranked in the top 15.
"Any time anybody asks me about our team, it always kind of starts with Abbi," Sauter said. "She's the No. 1 person back there."
White credits her progression to a combination of things: senior status, coaches, teammates and a new class called "Champions Culture," which the team is taking together for the first time this season.
The class -- including varsity and JV players -- meets weekly after practice in the arena's conference room. It doesn't just focus on Xs and Os, but on how to be a better all-around person and teammate, on and off the ice.
It's helped White in the crease.
"If I'm on my game and I'm positive, then I know the girls will be, too," White said. "I've thought about that a lot this year, too. I needed to step it up even more than I have in the past."
The class curriculum was developed by assistant coach Paul Bailey, who has known Sauter for more than a decade. They've set up a website that contains YouTube videos, clips, inspirational messages, lessons of character, assignments and Rangers game clips with coach's commentary.
"The girls have responded really well," Sauter said of the Rangers, who have improved from 5-17-3 last year to 13-10-2 this winter. "We're trying to change the way we think about and approach how we do daily things in our lives."
The stat sheet shows balanced scoring. Six girls have eight, nine or 10 goals on the season. They are led by freshman Kaitlyn VanTassel, who has added 23 assists to her 10 goals for a team-high 33 points.
While the Rangers finished only 7-10-1 in conference play, they've earned the No. 1 seed heading into Class 2A, Section 7 play this weekend. The seeding, which is voted on by all coaches in the section, reflects the unbeaten 3-0-1 record against those teams while earning Forest Lake a bye.
When it comes to sections, the Rangers will be battle-tested. They've had to face Mounds View, Roseville, Stillwater and other top state teams in the Suburban East.
"We know that we play in one of the best conferences in the state," Sauter said. "Knowing that we can compete with those teams a lot more closely this year than last year and years past, we use those experiences and know what to expect and know what the standard is."
White wants to meet that standard come playoff time. After all, it's her last shot.
"I know it's my last year so I have to show them what I got one more time," she said.