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Brinna Dochniak (23) defended East Ridge's Kayla Bender as she looked for a pass in front of Stillwater goalie Caitlin Carter. (Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune photo)
New season, same high expectations. It’s business as usual for the Stillwater girls’ hockey program.
The powerhouse program contends every year, and this squad should be no different.
In typical Ponies fashion, depth is Stillwater’s biggest strength. The team is able to play three solid lines.
“We can come at people in waves,” coach Tony Scheid said. “We have a lot of people that have scoring ability and they play the game the right way."
Jane Vezina led the team in points through Tuesday’s game against Cretin-Derham Hall. The senior captain and forward has five goals and six assists.
Vezina had a big game against an up-and-coming East Ridge team, finishing with two goals and one assist. She’s not afraid to go into high-traffic areas to make a play.
“She’s a real power forward and our most consistent player game in and game out. You know what you’re going to get with Jane when she steps on the ice,” Scheid said.
Junior Carlie Hart returns to the lineup after a strong sophomore campaign, when she had 21 points in 27 games. Hart, who has helped Stillwater capture a softball state championship, has been scoring at more than a point-per-game pace through nine games this season.
“She’s extremely strong and smart. She has good instincts and puts herself in good areas,” Scheid said.
Junior forward Sierra Smith and senior Ali Biagini both scored nine points through nine games. Smith centers Vezina and Hart to help cement a line that’s been clicking early on. Senior forward and assistant captain Taylor Naugle is contributing nicely. The quick and tenacious Georgia Eger centers Naugle and Biagini.
Emily Wiegand centers Taylor Gulenchyn and Lauren Greeder to fill out another line capable of scoring.
“They all have great chemistry, skill and work ethics,” Scheid said. “We’re excited about this group.”
Brinna Dochniak and Sam Scheid have been stalwarts on the blue line. Freshman Olivia Konigson and sophomores Olivia Arkell, Kourtney Jancze and Brianna Gedatus are all growing and playing key roles.
The Ponies have been splitting goaltending time. Senior Brianna Hersom and sophomore Caitlin Carter are both giving the team a chance to win every night.
The Ponies registered a strong early-season victory against Mounds View, the defending Suburban East Conference champion. It was a confidence builder, but they know it will be another logjam this year in the Suburban East, consistently revered as one of the top conferences in girls’ high school hockey.
“There are so many good teams in the conference right now. Every night it’s a battle,” Scheid said. “I don’t ever remember it being this wide open for so many teams. I think it will be an exciting year and it will be there for the taking for a lot of different teams."
The Ponies are off to a good start.