Lakeville South head coach Natalie Darwitz in the second period (Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune)
As Natalie Darwitz watched the puck drop on her first game as head coach of a state tournament team, Lakeville South senior Logan Felbab started a cheer in the Cougars’ student section. The students did their best to make noise, but the chant quickly evaporated in mostly empty Xcel Energy Center.
“There’s so [many] open seats,” Felbab said, citing the announced 2,210 evening crowd.
After her Cougars topped Blaine 3-1 Thursday, Darwitz suggested moving the tournament to Ridder Arena, where the Gophers women’s hockey team plays.
“I just think for where we’re at in girls’ hockey it might be better at Ridder,” Darwitz said.
The crowd at Thursday’s first session set an attendance record of 4,710, but that wasn’t nearly enough to fill Xcel Energy Center (capacity 18,000-plus). Ridder Arena holds up to 3,400 people and would be packed for the state tournament, which Darwitz said could help grow girls’ hockey in Minnesota.
“Put this crowd in Ridder Arena. How amazing,” Darwitz said. “I mean, goose bumps come to my skin right now.”
’Tonka forward to watch
Minnetonka girls’ hockey featured standout defensemen in recent years, including Rachel Ramsey, Sydney Baldwin, Sidney Morin. The Skippers, who advanced to the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament Thursday night with a 5-0 victory over Andover, now have an elite forward in Presley Norby.
The junior tallied three points against the Huskies and leads Minnetonka in scoring with 43 this season. Norby showcased her ability last month as a member of the U.S. team that won gold at the Under-18 World Championship in Buffalo, N.Y.
“I definitely feel like I brought back some leadership from that and just some confidence on the ice,” Norby said.
Mekenzie Steffen from Hill-Murray and Grace Bowlby from Edina were also on the U18 national team.
“It was really fun to see how they play,” Norby said.
Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser: “It is a totally different animal once you get down here, especially if you’re seeded. Eastview did the best they can.”
Jack Satzinger and Betsy Helfand are University of Minnesota students on assignment for the Star Tribune.