'We'll get hungrier and better': Dodge County falls in OT in section title game

Albert Lea’s Olivia Ellsworth scored just more than 4 minutes into overtime to give the Tigers a 3-2 win against Dodge County in the Section 1A girls hockey championship game.

Dodge County, Albert Lea Section 1A Girls Hockey Championship
Dodge County’s Nora Carstensen (11) controls the puck during a Section 1A Girls Hockey Championship game on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at Steele County Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

OWATONNA — Jeremy Gunderson said it in the build-up to the Section 1A girls hockey championship game: Experience can be a great equalizer this time of year.

And though Gunderson’s Dodge County Wildcats took the No. 1 seed in the section into Thursday’s championship game at Four Seasons Centre, No. 2 seed Albert Lea was the team that had been there before, the defending champions of Section 1.

Dodge County, though it was in a section final for the fourth time in 10 years, had just one player on its team that had played in a championship game before — goalie Ida Huber, who backstopped Rochester Lourdes to a section title two years ago before joining Dodge County when Lourdes’ program folded.

The stars aligned for Albert Lea Thursday — experience and a perfectly executed game plan combining to help the Tigers eke out a 3-2 overtime victory on a point shot through traffic on a power play by Olivia Ellsworth 4:33 into the extra period.


Ellsworth’s goal propels the Tigers (18-7-1) to the Class A state tournament for a second consecutive season. Dodge County’s season ends at 16-9-2.

“I’m proud of our kids and their season, they did a good job,” said Gunderson, Dodge County’s head coach. “We’re young; we’ll get hungrier and better. We’ll learn from these chances. It’s the first section final for these girls.

“Experience does help; you understand the nerves and the crowd. We were a little tight; had a couple girls hurt for a bit in the game.”

Dodge County, Albert Lea Section 1A Girls Hockey Championship
Dodge County’s Maysie Koch fights for the puck during the Section 1A girls hockey championship game against Albert Lea on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at Steele County Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna. Albert Lea defeated Dodge County 3-2 in overtime.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

By most metrics, Albert Lea shouldn’t have won Thursday’s game.

Dodge County had nine power plays in the game, including three 5-on-3 opportunities in the first two periods. The Wildcats — who entered the game with one of the state’s top six power plays, at 32.1% — scored on just one of those nine chances.

Dodge County also dominated the shots on goal, outshooting the Tigers 30-11 in the game, including 23-4 over the first two periods.

Albert Lea ended up getting the better of the one metric that matters most, though: the scoreboard. The Tigers trailed for less than five minutes of the 55-plus minutes played. Goalie Jayda Moyer was locked in, too, making nearly every first save, then directing rebounds to the corners and the boards.

“The game kind of changes when you get all those chances in the first period and you don’t put them away,” Gunderson said. “You get chances and hit a crossbar or a pipe. Then Nora (Carstensen) walks in and just misses, then Maysie (Koch) walks in and just misses. Usually, we’d been money on those in the regular season. It’s hard when you don’t put a team away when you get that many chances.”


Junior defender Abby Simons scored the Wildcats’ first goal on a heavy shot from the left circle on a five-on-three power play in the second period. Carstensen then gave her team its only lead, 2-1, with a short-handed tally at 9:45 of the third. Liley Steven answered for Albert Lea, though, less than a minute later to tie the score.

Dodge County, Albert Lea Section 1A Girls Hockey Championship
Dodge County’s Abby Simons, center, hugs teammates after scoring a goal during a Section 1A Girls Hockey Championship game against Albert Lea on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, at Steele County Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

“(Albert Lea) played well, capitalized on the chances they had, you can’t take anything away from them at all,” Gunderson said. “Sometimes a goalie can get kind of cold when you don’t have many looks and then everything becomes a challenge in your defensive zone.”

Albert Lea’s defense also blocked dozens of shots, not allowing Dodge County’s skilled skaters to carry the puck into high-percentage shooting areas, and not allowing them clear lanes to shoot through from the point or the circles.

Most importantly, Albert Lea’s penalty kill — the sixth-best kill in the state, at 91.8% — lived up to the numbers. The Tigers stopped Dodge County on eight of nine power plays (88.9%) and scored two of their three goals with the man-advantage.

“I’d love to see both teams have a chance to play more five-on-five hockey and let it flow through,” Gunderson said. “It’s a tough game when you’re constantly going from power play to penalty kill to four-on-four, back and forth. It gets you out of rhythm and then you get those bounces that take place, and they get a good shot and score at the end.”

The loss is a tough one to swallow for the Wildcats, who were looking to get to state for the first time. Dodge County, in its first season in Class A, had lost in the Section 1AA title games in 2013, 2014 and 2016, two of those by one goal.

They’ll say goodbye to a small but vital group of seniors — forwards Taylor Winkels and Abby Zeitler, and defenders Greta Petree and Mady Krause. That foursome logged a lot of minutes Thursday, as very little five-on-five play occurred (unofficially, there was more than 27 minutes of specialty teams time in the game).

“They did a good job; they put the time in, worked hard,” Gunderson said of the seniors. “Its unfortunate that it has to end this way. They had bigger aspirations.


“They’re good, hard-working kids. The great thing about them, they’re going to be great people in the community.”


Albert Lea 0-1-1-1 — 3

Dodge County 0-1-1-0 — 2

Albert Lea: Hanna Austinson 1 goal, 1 assist; Liley Steven 1 goal; Sydney Kolker 1 assist; Olivia Ellsworth 1 goal. Goalie: Jayda Moyer 28 saves (30 shots).

Dodge County: Abby Simons 1 goal; Maysie Koch 2 assists; Zoe Heimer 1 assist; Nora Carstensen 1 goal. Goalie: Ida Huber 8 saves (11 shots).

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
What To Read Next
Get Local