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Top games: Orono starts competitive stretch with state semifinal rematch

By Heather Rule, SportsEngine, 12/05/22, 10:15AM CST


Dec. 10: The Spartans and goalie Celia Dahl have a 169:25 shutout streak going, looking to extend it against Proctor/Hermantown.

We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.

Proctor/Hermantown vs. Orono

1:00 pm, Saturday, Dec. 10

When Orono finally broke through to its first girls’ state hockey tournament last year, it met the defending Class 1A champion Proctor/Hermantown in the semifinals.

Orono took an early 1-0 lead on the power play, but the Mirage came back with four third-period goals to return to the state title game for a second consecutive year, finishing second to Warroad.

If the Mirage, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A by a coaches’ poll released Dec. 1, will get past No. 4-1A Orono with a victory, they’ll need to find a way to get the puck past Orono senior goaltender Celia Dahl.

She’s been the backstop for three consecutive Orono shutout victories coming into the week. Dahl is 6-1-1, including four shutouts, with a 1.00 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. The Spartans haven’t allowed a goal since the third period (a 169:25 shutout streak) Nov. 22 in a 10-1 victory at New Prague.

The Spartans are also boosted by junior defenseman Grace Bickett (two goals, nine assists) after she missed all of last season with an injury.

This game kicks off a three-game stretch of top competition for Orono. The following week, they’ll travel to section and conference rival No. 3-1A Holy Angels and then No. 1-2A Gentry Academy.

Proctor/Hermantown comes into the week off a 5-2 loss to Champlin Park/Coon Rapids. The Mirage have offensive depth led by junior forwards Hannah Graves (three goals, six assists) and Izy Fairchild (four goals, two assists). But the goaltender position appears to be a tandem effort so far following the graduation of Abby Pajari, a three-year starter who won a state title in 2021.

This season, freshman Suri Langley is 2-1-0 so far for Proctor/Hermantown with a 1.00 goals-against average and .936 save percentage with two shutouts. Sophomore Neelah McLeod is 1-1-0 with a 2.96 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Both goaltenders saw limited minutes in net last season.

Moorhead vs. Brainerd/Little Falls

6:00 pm, Friday, Dec. 9

This is likely a game that Moorhead has thought about all spring, summer and fall, ever since Brainerd/Little Falls defeated the Spuds 2-1 in the Class 2A, Section 8 championship game last season.

The Spuds, who’ve made strides forward in the past three seasons under coach Ryan Kraft, were devastated by the loss in their first section final since 2013. These teams split a pair of 1-0 home, regular-season victories last season before the section game. So a tight, one-goal game isn’t out of the question once again.

Moorhead, No. 12-2A, is much happier with its start to this season compared to last year when it struggled to score goals. The Spuds are 4-2 through six games and have outscored opponents 27-10. Compare that to last year at this time when they were 3-3 with 14 total goals scored on the way to a 5-5 start. 

The Spuds displayed effective scoring depth when seven players found the back of the net in a recent 8-1 victory over Wayzata. 

Senior captain Bria Holm scored a pair of goals in that game, and her assist on the team’s second goal of the game gave her 100 career points; she leads the team with six goals. Her sister, junior Ella Holm (four goals, three assists), is skating on a different line this season, with junior Taylor Brueske (four goals, five assists) and senior Annie Krieg (one goal, six assists).

Senior Olivia Dronen leads Moorhead with 10 points (three goals, seven assists). She’s a defenseman who’s played forward in the past.

Brainerd/Little Falls takes a three-game winning streak into the week after winning on three consecutive days on home ice, starting with a 2-1 overtime victory against River Lakes.

Macy Peterson has a pair of power-play goals as part of her team-leading five tallies (four being game-winners) and nine points. Molly Polhkamp (four goals, four assists) and Molly Hagelie (three goals, three assists) follow on the stats sheet, while Peyton LeMieur has four goals this season.

Rogers vs. Hill-Murray

7:00 pm, Saturday, Dec. 10

A Class 2A clash between No. 6-2A Hill-Murray and No. 10-2A Rogers awaits at Aldrich Arena. On paper, it looks to be a fairly even match with the Pioneers scoring 3.20 goals per game to the 3.50 goals per game for Rogers.

However, Hill-Murray’s defense and goaltending has been solid, allowing 0.80 goals per game while Rogers lets in three on average. If it turns into a special teams battle, Rogers has cashed in on 29.4% of their power-play opportunities, while Hill-Murray is looking for its second power-play goal of the season.

The Pioneers are 4-1 to start the week, with three shutouts behind junior goaltender Grace Zhan (0.80 goals-against average, .961 save percentage). Their only blemish so far was a 3-1 loss to No. 4-2A Edina.

On the blue line, senior Ellah Hause and sophomore Josie Skoogman are contributing offensively, too, with two goals and one assist each. The Pioneers have allowed an average of 20 shots on goal to opponents this season.

Rogers has a couple of conference road games before facing the Pioneers this week, hoping to get on the right side of a current .500 record (2-2), though their losses came against top-five programs Edina and Andover.

The Royals have a mix of experience and youth with a top line of senior Ava Johansson (four goals, one assist), sophomore Lauren Barnacle (three assists) and seventh-grader Taylor Hall (two goals, one assist).

Second-line right wing McKenna Sandberg leads the team in assists (7) and points (8). Junior center Avery Achterkirch leads the team with two power-play goals and two power-play assists.

Other games to keep an eye on

Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato vs. Mankato East, 7:15 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6. These Class 1A, Section 2 rivals met twice last season, with Mankato East winning a pair of one-goal games, the last being a 3-2 victory in the Section 2 championship. Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato looks to snap a four-game losing skid.

Crookston vs. Warroad, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6. A matchup between Greater Minnesota and top-10 squads. No. 7-1A Crookston is riding a seven-game unbeaten streak to start the season, while top-ranked Warroad has put up 7.62 goals per game with a 7-1 record.  

Top Games poll

The MN Girls' Hockey Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.

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