Despite falling in the quarterfinals, the Andover girls’ hockey team rallied to make the most of its first state tournament experience ever.
Winning the consolation title inspired the Huskies’ up-and-coming players to keep chasing their dreams with confidence.
For Sidney Portner, one of Andover’s top four forwards who are sophomores or younger, reaching the state tournament provided a triumphant ending to a sometimes turbulent season.
The Huskies started the season a pedestrian 6-4-2. Portner found herself in flux on the second line as potential linemates came and went.
But all the while, Portner saw signs of hope. The team’s collective work ethic improved and the Huskies went a solid 7-2-1 down the stretch. The seventh victory came in the Section 7 final against Elk River.
Portner, who finished the season with five goals and three assists, spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about navigating the regular season and making memories in the section playoffs, and how going to state has created excitement for the future.
Q: What memories will live on in your mind from winning the section title and clinching Andover’s first trip to state ever?
A: Playing Elk River in the section finals was great. They are our rivals. And our coach, Melissa Sailor, had a younger sister on Elk River’s team. We knew we had beaten them during the season so we were pretty confident. Then when we got the empty net goal by Mikayla Goodin it hit everyone like, ‘This is it; we’re going to state.’ It was so exciting.
Q: You were listed as the second-line center in the tournament. Has that been your role all year?
A: I’ve been pretty much there all year. But it took awhile to figure out my wings. It was tough because the first line was clicking from the beginning. They moved Mikayla down and we clicked but we couldn’t find that other wing, so they moved her back. Then halfway through the season, they brought up Claire Butorac and Nicole Sedey from JV and we found each other. They were young and a little nervous so I tried to be their rock at center. I told them they were here for a reason.
Q: The team started 6-4-2 but went 7-2-1 down the stretch. What helped you close out so much stronger?
A: Coming into the season, we were known as the lazy team. But the coaches did a very good job of getting us together and saying, ‘You know what? We’re going to change that title. We’re going to be a hard-working team people are scared to play.’ We worked hard in practice and put it together and by the end of the year we’d changed our title. That’s pretty big.
Q: What effect has the state tournament experience had on your outlook?
A: I’m thrilled. I’m already thinking, ‘After state let’s get ready for next season.’ I want to do summer camps with my linemates. I want to see us keep working hard. We’ve got solid goaltending with Maddie Rooney. We got to state this year and we have all the potential to get back.
David La Vaque