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2022-23 Girls hockey outlook: Four new coaches taking over area programs

A look at the six southeastern Minnesota girls hockey teams as they prepare to begin the 2022-23 season.

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Grace Kober (30) is part of a strong one-two punch for Rochester Mayo in goal this winter. Kober and Alivia Haakenson split time nearly equally a year ago, and could do the same for the Spartans this season.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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CENTURY/JM

Head coach: Tom Aney, seventh season

Assistants: Lucas Hughes, John Gamble, Jess Senjem, Abby Holets.

Last season: 7-18-1, lost to Lakeville South in Section 1AA quarterfinals.

Top returners: Sr. G Abigail Conners (6-17-1, 5.11 GAA, .864 save pct., 1 SO); Jr. F Annika Torbenson (11-8–19); Jr. F Fiona Barry (7-9–16); So. F Daelyn Williams (8-7–15).

Outlook: The Panthers’ veteran presence is real this season, with seven seniors on the team. “This is by far the most seniors we’ve had in a while, so we are looking for great leadership and maturity,” Aney said.

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Leading that veteran group is goalie Abigail Conners, who is entering her third season as the team’s go-to starter and her fifth year of varsity hockey overall. She had a 6-17-1 mark last season with an .864 save percentage and one shutout.

She’ll be boosted by an offense that returns its top seven scorers from a year ago, led by senior Kailey Birkestrand (6-5–11) and Nina Luke (3-4–7), juniors Annika Torbenson (11-8–19) and Fiona Barry (7-9–16), and sophomores Daelyn Williams (8-7–15), Megan Gamble (6-4–10) and Paige Groslie (2-7–9).

“Abi continues to get better each year,” Aney said. “She gives us extremely reliable goaltending and can keep us in games against stronger opponents. We have our top scoring line back and in addtion we’ve liked what we’ve seen so far in practice from our line combos. With so many returners, we hope to be strong in special teams by building on what they’ve learned the last few years.”

In all, 17 of Century’s players are sophomores or older.

Coach Aney says: “With more seniors/upperclassmen, we're looking to be a little stronger and more physical, especially in front of both nets. We've loved the chemistry we've seen in practices and feel it can only get better. It certainly helps to have top scorers back and that familiarity allows us to build on a good foundation that they established last season.”

Meet The Panthers

Seniors: D Klaus Gilbertson, D Nina Luke, D Grace Oyen, F Kailey Birkestrand, F Aubrie Bourgoyne, F Ian Skoglund, G Abigail Conners. Juniors: D Cecelia Halleck, F Fiona Barry, F Rachel Lagerlund, F Annika Torbenson. Sophomores: D Kasey Morrissey, D Paige Groslie, F Megan Gamble, F Caydence Hanson, F Jessica Retterath, F Sophia Trabuco, F Brianna Hofbauer, F Daelyn Williams. Freshmen: F Kylie Davidson, F Mylee White. Eighth-graders: D Emilia Gamble.

MAYO

Head coach: Nicky Root, first season

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Assistants: Kora Torkelson, Brad Berge, Case Hansen

Last season: 9-17-0, lost to Northfield in Section 1AA quarterfinals.

Top returners: Jr. G Alivia Haakenson (4-8-0, 4.28 GAA, .879 save pct.); So. G Grace Kober (5-9-0, 4.14, .876); So. F Katie Cummings (17-6–23); Jr. F Claire Siems (3-16–19).

Outlook: The Spartans have a wealth of experience, having graduated just three players from last season’s team. They roll into the new season with a pair of talented goalies and a young group of scorers who gained valuable experience a year ago.

Senior defenseman Ella Dozois and junior center Andrea Augeson are the team’s captains and leaders.

Up front they are led by their top scorer from last season, sophomore forward Katie Cummings (17-6–23). Junior Claire Siems led the team in assists (16), while classmate Augeson (4-6–10) tied Cummings with a team-best five-best special teams points. Junior Cass Arendt (6-8–14) is a fourth returning player who reached double digits in points last season and is likely to add even more offensive punch this winter.

“Our team has grit and drive,” coach Root said. “Much of our team has played together through youth, so their ability to hold each other accountable and help push one another is inspiring. We always have areas to grow in. Our team is still fairly young, so our ability to continue our learning on the ice and our trust off the ice is inspiring for this season and those that follow. “

Another strength for the Spartans this season is in goal. All three of their netminders return, including the two primary goalies who split time nearly evenly a year ago. Junior Alivia Haakenson was 4-8-0 with a 4.28 goals-against average and a strong .879 save percentage. Sophomore Grace Kober was equally strong, going 5-9-0 with a 4.14 GAA, an .876 save pct. and one shutout.

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“The competition between our goaltenders is motivating to our team,” coach Root said. “Alivia and Grace complement each other yet find the push to help make the other a little better each ice-time. Our defensive current is often set off of our goaltending and with several strong returning defense (Dozois, Layla Rippentrop, Elle Roth, and Natalie Campbell) we strive to reward our goalies with a strong 'D’ zone.”

Coach Root says: “We do have good team chemistry on the ice! We have several incredibly versatile players, including Cassie Arendt, and Claire Seims, who many of our players push to work with them on and off the ice. Andrea Augeson and Katie Cummings are always giving 110% and find ways to benefit those on the ice with them as well. They bring fluidity to the team.

“We look forward to the competition this season and we always have the section championship in our goals. We hope to set the bar high and reach the level of competitiveness that stirs at the top of our conference.”

Meet the Spartans

Seniors: F Megan Lutz, D Ella Dozois, F/D Cami Tripp. Juniors: G Alivia Haakenson, F Claire Siems, D/F Layla Rippentrop, F Andrea Augeson, D Elle Roth, F Cass Arendt. Sophomores: F Fiona Nickelson, F Katie Cummings, F Sophia Sather, D/F Melis Cicek, D/F Natalie Campbell, F Ariyah McKibben, G Grace Kober. Freshmen: D Milania Black, F Julia Labrash, G Hailey Gurtner. Seventh-grader: F/D Madelyn Desjardins.

AREA TEAMS

DODGE COUNTY

Head coach: Jeremy Gunderson, 17th season

Assistants: Emily Gunderson

Last season: 14-12-0, lost to Lakeville North in Section 1AA quarterfinals.

Outlook: The Wildcats move into Section 1A this season with a talented lineup that makes them a favorite to get to the state tournament for the first time in program history.

It starts in goal with Huber, a standout who made the USA Hockey U15 National Development Camp last summer.

On defense, seniors Greta Petree (3-6–9) and Mady Krause lead a deep group that should make life easier on Huber. Krause is joined on the blue line by junior Abby Simons (8-12–20) and freshman Kylie Meyer (2-2–4). Simons and Meyer both made USA Hockey High Performance camps over the summer and are part of a defensive corps that should be an excellent complement to the team’s firepower up front.

The Wildcats’ forward group includes an outstanding mix of underclassmen and veterans. Their top line is likely to include two sophomores — Mollie Koch (10-16–26) and Nora Carstensen (13-24–37) — as well as an eighth-grader, Maysie Koch (5-10–15). That trio includes three of D.C.’s top four returning scorers and they combined for 78 points last season. Senior Abby Zeitler and freshman Zoe Heimer are among the other top returners up front.

Coach Gunderson says: “I’m very excited to see this team grow as we will have some very young top end talent and a great mix with solid senior leaders. This will be the first time that we are in Class A for the playoffs so it will be exciting to see where this team ends up.”

AUSTIN

Co-Head coaches: Kendra Maxfield, Cory Squier, first season

Last season: 15-11-0, lost to Albert Lea 7-2 in Section 1A championship game.

Outlook: The Packers are one of four area teams with new head coaches this fall, though co-coaches Kendra Maxfield and Cory Squier are no strangers to the program, having served as assistant coaches. Austin’s top returners up front include senior forwards Sarah Wangen (15-10–25) and Arianna Barrera (3-6–9), and junior Camille Dunlap (6-4–10).

On defense, the Packers have three strong returners to lead the way, including junior Peyton Squier (2-3–5) and sophomores Allie Davidson (1-4–5) and Brenna Haedt (1-0–1).

Varsity newcomer Chloe Shaal will take over in goal.

Coach Maxfield says: “Losing our seniors will have an impact this year, however, I am incredibly excited to see how this year goes. Our returning players had great leadership to guide them, and now they get to be the leaders on our team. They’ve been great leaders in the pre-season, and this will only grow as the season progresses.

“I think the strengths of our team are resiliency and flexibility. I anticipate that we will be strong with our team chemistry this year, which will help create plays and utilize our players well. Our penalty kill has been a strength for our team and I believe we will continue to do well on our penalty kill.”

RED WING

Head coach: Katelyn Hadler, first season

Assistant: Mitchell Skeen

Last season: 4-20-0, lost to Two Rivers/St. Paul 4-2 in Section 4A quarterfinals.

Outlook: The Wingers have plenty of pieces to build on under first-year head coach Katelyn Hadler. They return two of their three goalies, including junior Allie Meyer, who played the bulk of the minutes in 2021-22. She went 3-18-0 and had one shutout.

Junior Tatum Zylka leads the way up front. The Wingers leading scorer last season is back for her junior year after putting up 10 goals and 19 total points. Senior Allison Roe is the only other double-digits points producer returning; she had 6-5–11 last season.

Junior Allison Kruger is back to help lead the defensive corps, after scoring six goals last season.

WINONA

Head coach: Rick Burns, first season

Last season: 0-19-0, lost to Albert Lea 6-0 in Section 1A semifinals.

Outlook: The Winhawks have some talented players back and are steadily improving and building the program back after not fielding a varsity team for three seasons from 2017-20.

Avery Engbrecht, who scored four goals last season, is a skilled player, who is joined as leaders by sophomore defender Asta Griggs and junior Ayanna King, who is challenging in the coming week for a state diving championship.

Junior Jordan Werner is another top returner who will be relied upon for leadership on and off the ice.

The Winhawks’ success will start in goal, though, with sophomore Aliya Gricius, who is in her third season as a varsity starter. “She has been a complete wall in the net for us,” coach Rick Burns said.

As an eighth-grader in 2020-21, Gricius had games of 86 saves, 58 saves (twice) and a whopping 92 saves on 101 shots faced against Northfield. She has put up stellar numbers, considering the heavy workload she has had. Gricius had a 5.51 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage last season, when she faced 49.9 shots per game.

Coach Burns says: “Aliya is the most important player on our team. Having her in net allows this young team to make a few mistakes in front of her without those mistakes costing us the game. She will once again this season be called on to make saves to keep us in games. … A strength for this team is our youth and our desire to compete and improve. With the changing of our coaching staff we are looking to put a much more complete team on the ice to compete. I am just excited to see these girls compete this year and see where they can end up by the end of this season.”

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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