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NOTEBOOK: Dodge County girls off to fast start

The Dodge County girls hockey team is playing with a chip on its shoulder.

The Wildcats are driven, seeking respect and their first ever postseason victory.

So far, so good.

During a red-hot start to the 2011-12 season, the Wildcats are 5-0. They've already beaten a pair of ranked teams, and they're outscoring foes 43-8.

In five games, they've allowed just two third-period goals.

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"The girls are doing well," DC coach Jeremy Gundersonsaid. "I think the continuity between the players and coaches is a big thing. I've coached a lot of these girls since they were 6 and 7 playing youth hockey. We have some players who are 10th graders, but they've been playing varsity hockey for three or four years now, so the experience helps."

Gunderson said one of the biggest keys to the team's early season success has been its special-teams play. The Wildcats have taken 23 penalties this season, but they have not allowed a single power-play goal.

When Dodge County has a power play, they're scoring at a 31-percent clip.

"Killing off 100 percent of your penalties, that's huge, and that shows how hard the girls have worked," Gunderson said.

The Wildcats' top line — Darby Dodds, Dana Rasmussenand Kortney Kleber— is tearing it up. Dodds leads the team with 18 points, while Rasmussen is second at 17. Kleber is third with 14.

They've also received excellent goaltending from starter Anna Hunter. She carries a .918 saves percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average.

Gunderson said the team also has been aided this season by the addition of Lydia Wagner. She's a former forward now playing defense, and Gunderson said Wagner already is getting Division I looks as a junior.

"We kind of revamped the defense this year, and we moved a few forwards back there," Gunderson said. "That's really made our breakout smoother and cleaner. We've scored a lot of goals in transition."

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With the 5-0 start and wins over ranked foes Totino-Grace and Blake, the Wildcats are hoping to earn some respect from section coaches. They'll have a hard time passing teams like Lakeville North and Lakeville South in the seeding process, but earning that first postseason victory is a high priority.

"Yeah, receiving a higher seed in the section was one of the goals the girls set this season," Gunderson said. "But these girls have been great about setting short-term goals. They're in there between periods, setting goals about what they want to accomplish each period. We have the short-term goals, and the long-term goals, and those are to win that first playoff game and then keep going and get to state. It's been a struggle, as an independent team, to get games against top teams to show that we're talented and get that respect. But the girls are making the most of the chances they do get."

Dodge County will receive another chance Friday, when the Wildcats hit the road to take on state-ranked Hopkins.

— Ben Pherson

Boys basketball

Schaeffer is winning

Two nights, two wins. That bad for a team that finished 0-19 a year ago.

The Schaeffer Academy boys basketball team was winless a year ago and doesn't have a single senior on this year's roster. But the Lions have opened this season 2-0. They began the season with a 72-62 win over Hope Lutheran on Monday and followed with a 64-61 overtime victory over Lyle/Pacelli one night later.

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T.J. Burgetis in his first year coaching the Lions and he appears to have the squad headed in the right direction. Both wins came in Southeast Conference play, where the Lions finished 0-18 last season.

Nathan Hanson, a 6-foot junior guard, has been a big part of Schaeffer's early-season success. Hanson scored 19 points in the victory over Hope Lutheran and followed that up with a 24-point outing against Lyle/Pacelli.

Jordan Whitcomb, a 6-3 junior center, has also key inside force. He has netted 20 and 15 points in the first two games.

— Guy N. Limbeck

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Caledonia, Chatfield standing tall without 6-footers

Caledonia and Chatfield both figure to stand tall in the Three Rivers Conference girls basketball race this season, even though both teams aren’t as tall as they were expected to be.

The two teams are off to good starts even without the talents of proven 6-footers who elected not to play this season.

Caledonia is without towering center Emma Lange, a 6-foot-3 junior who was a two-year starter and averaged 15 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. The defending Section 1AA champions, coached by Scott Sorenson, are off to a 2-0 start and are ranked No. 4 in Class AA.

Chatfield is minus its second-leading scorer from last season, 6-1 senior center Kenna Moechnigwho averaged 11 points per game and was also top rebounded for last year’s 17-10 Gophers team. Chatfield, coached by Brian Baum, is off to a 3-2 start.

Chatfield is also playing without last year’s leading scorer and rebounder Karen Sass(15.4 ppg), a 5-7 senior forward who will miss the season after having knee surgery in the fall.

Caledonia and Chatfield will match their new shorter lineups in a TRC Conference game Tuesday at Chatfield.

— Donny Henn

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