Andover boys’ hockey coach Mark Manney noticed his goaltender, Maddie Rooney, smiling more the past few days than she did the past few weeks.
But then, acceptance is a tough feeling to hide.
Rooney, a senior playing her first year of boys’ high school hockey, stood tall against No. 10-ranked Duluth East last Saturday, stopping 41 of 43 shots. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, but Rooney won her teammates’ trust.
“A bond was developed in that game,” Manney said. “The kids really trust her to bail them out.”
She also gained the opposition’s respect. Rooney kept her team in a game in which the Huskies were outshot 43-18 overall and 9-0 in overtime.
“She was the difference in the game, and that was our best game so far,” said Duluth East coach Mike Randolph, in his 27th season behind the bench. “Anyone who questions whether she deserves to play didn’t see that game.”
Rooney, who committed to Minnesota Duluth, joined the boys’ team this winter with a goal of accelerating her college development. She played only boys’ hockey growing up until backstopping the Huskies girls’ team the past two seasons. A year ago she led the girls’ program to its first-ever Class 2A state tournament appearance.
Manney rated Rooney as one of the top two goalies in the boys’ program but warned her that playing time was no guarantee. Rooney’s Duluth East performance capped a solid three-game run and solidified her place.
“She’s got the job,” Manney said. “She’s got it until she plays bad and maybe plays bad twice.”
Rooney earned the start in Andover’s first game. She overcame a nervous and tentative first period in an 8-4 victory against Armstrong/Cooper.
She played a reliever role against Spring Lake Park, entering the game in the second period with the Huskies trailing 3-0. She stopped all 23 shots she faced in a 5-3 comeback victory.
“She saw a breakaway about a minute after she got in there,” Manney said. “She stopped it and was lights out after that. She stayed mentally into it the whole way so when she did get in there, she was able to provide that spark because of her preparation.”
Manney lauded Rooney’s feel for the game as well as her lower-body quickness and solid glove. Her lack of size and lateral quickness are concerns, but Rooney tries to compensate with an aggressive style.
“We know what we’ve seen, but we don’t know what to expect,” Manney said. “If she strings together four or five of these types of games we can say that’s the goalie she is.”
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574