Blake's move up to Class 2A has been a dominant storyline this season, but the Bears are not the only news-makers as several players and programs are already garnered plenty of attention. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine
A handful of girls’ hockey teams have started the year undefeated or notched impressive early victories. There’s a long way to go until playoffs begin in February, but these teams have earned the right to dream big.
In Class 2A, White Bear Lake started 4-1-1 with its lone loss coming against hockey power Blake. The 4-2 game was the closest Blake victory margin so far this season. Junior forward Sydney Shearen is tied for fourth with 10 assists. Her playmaking abilities, coupled with stingy goaltender Calla Frank, give the Bears talented leaders.
Speaking of Blake, the westside Bears are sending notice of their intentions. They moved up to Class 2A this season and have defeated state tournament qualifiers Eastview, Eden Prairie and Hill-Murray by a combined score of 16-2. Junior defender Madeline Wethington leads from the blue line with four goals and 14 assists. Forwards Izzy Daniel and Lily Delianedis each have eight goals, one ahead of Sara McClanahan.
Blaine, the Class 2A runner-up last year, has dominated through five games, outscoring opponents by a combined 33-1. Senior Abby Jones and junior Ramsey Parent each have eight goals for the Bengals while goalie Jaela O’Brien has stopped all but one shot faced.
Breck, the preseason No. 1 ranked team in Class 1A, played a brutal nonconference schedule and started slow as a result. The Mustangs (1-5) lost to four Class 2A teams, including state tournament qualifiers Hill-Murray and Roseau, as well as fellow 1A power Warroad.
Somebody good will lose: Blake, a private school that drew scrutiny while winning seven Class 1A titles, made its long-awaited move up to Class 2A. The Bears were assigned to Section 6 with defending big-school state champion Edina. That means at least one of the state’s elite teams won’t advance. The Hornets play Jan. 20 at the refurbished Blake School Arena in what figures to be a section final preview.
Bengal battles: Blaine, Class 2A runner up last year, started 5-0 but the meat of its schedule awaits. Games against Northwest Suburban Conference and Section 5 rivals Centennial (Dec. 12 and Jan. 16) and Maple Grove (Dec. 9 and Jan. 13) will tell us much about the Bengals. All three programs are ranked in the top 10.
Pioneers at home: Hill-Murray, state tournament semifinalists the past two seasons, gets a shot at both Class 2A title game participants. The Pioneers host Edina (Dec. 2) and Blaine (Jan. 27) at Aldrich Arena, where they have won 28 of their past 30 games.
Double meaning: Eden Prairie’s Feb. 3 game at Minnetonka has both Lake Conference title and, more importantly, Class 2A, Section 2 seeding implications. Eden Prairie outlasted Minnetonka for a double-overtime victory in the section finals last season.
A handful of games into the season shows several players asserting themselves as worthy of Ms. Hockey consideration. The award, presented by Let’s Play Hockey magazine, honors the state’s top senior skater.
Red Wing forward Taylor Heise entered this week as the state’s top scorer with 14 goals, including three hat tricks, in her first five games. With her size (5-10) and ability to score from anywhere, Heise is a matchup nightmare. She is committed to the Gophers. Read David La Vaque's feature on Heise.
Centennial’s Gabbie Hughes and Anneke Linser are the state’s highest-scoring linemates. Hughes (12 goals, seven assists) and Linser (7-11) sparked the Cougars’ 4-0 record. They will play together at Minnesota-Duluth.
Another talented forward tandem, Edina’s Lolita Fidler and Emily Oden, have the defending Class 2A champions rolling. The Harvard-bound Fidler averages four points per game and tallied two hat tricks. Oden, who committed to the Gophers, scored four times against Duluth.
Additional seniors filling up the score sheet thus far includes Kylie Hanley of Hopkins/St. Louis Park (tied for third with 18 points), Blaine’s Gabby Rosenthal (17 points) and Samantha Burke of St. Paul United (14 points). Abigail Boreen of Hill-Murray, Paetyn Levis of Rogers and Orono’s Lizi Norton each have 13 points.
Blake’s Anna Kruesel makes a strong case for the Senior Goalie of the Year Award. She has won all eight of the Bears’ games, allowing just eight goals and blanking four opponents in the process.
David La Vaque