Ultimate competitor Carstensen is PB's All-Area Girls Hockey Player of the Year
Sophomore Nora Carstensen embraced her leadership role for the Dodge County girls hockey team this season. She's already looking forward to leading the Wildcats to a different ending next year.
KASSON — Nearly a month has passed since Nora Carstensen’s sophomore season came to a close.
But the feeling of how the season ended — the pit in her stomach after a 3-2 overtime loss to Albert Lea in the Section 1A championship game — hasn’t gone away.
“I’m very competitive,” said Carstensen, a sophomore who was the leading goal scorer for the Dodge County girls hockey team this winter. “I was very upset, but we’ll use those emotions to push harder and say ‘next year is our year, there’s no going back.’”
As difficult as it is to think about that game — a game the Wildcats dominated in every way, except on the scoreboard — Dodge County head coach Jeremy Gunderson said he has no doubt that it will make the Wildcats’ players, Carstensen specifically, better.
“I don’t think there’s a player who took that loss harder than Nora,” Gunderson said. “We lost on a Thursday, checked in on her every day and I think it took until Sunday for her to kind of want to get back and out and onto the ice.
“Her Hockey IQ is great and her compete level is off the charts. She’s ferocious, competitive and wants to win every game. A lot of kids respond to her because of that. They know she’s here for one purpose — to win games and help the team.”
Carstensen’s combination of skill, talent and sheer desire to do whatever is necessary for Dodge County to win, stood out among many talented players in southeastern Minnesota this season. For all of those reasons and more, she is the 2023 Post Bulletin All-Area Girls Hockey Player of the Year.
“We learned a lot this season,” said Carstensen, who led Dodge County with 28 goals and was second to linemate Maysie Koch, with 47 points. “We learned we need to come into big games wanting it right away. We can’t just sit back and watch the game get taken from us like that. We need to attack and not sit back.”
It’s that drive and personality that have not only made Carstensen a statistical leader for the Wildcats, but have made her a leader off the ice, as well. She was an alternate captain this season and will wear a letter again next winter as a junior.
“It’s amazing. I remember being a little girl who looked up to the (captains) on the team,” she said. “Now I’m someone who those younger girls can look up to. It’s fun to know they’re watching you, looking up to you and watching what you do closely.”
Gunderson said he has watched Carstensen go down the same development path that many young players have traveled in the Wildcats’ program: Watch and learn from the varsity leaders as a seventh- and eighth-grader, take a big jump in confidence and on the ice as a freshman, then work to become a complete player.
Carstensen had one point as a seventh grader and two as an eighth-grader in a season that was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, to say she had a breakout season as a freshman in 2021-22 is an understatement, as she scored 13 goals and had 37 points.
“The biggest thing for Nora is her confidence and how much that’s grown,” Gunderson said. “That takes a little time to develop for every kid. Sometimes it takes a year or two to adapt to the speed and strength of the game.
“Nora came into the program as a seventh-grader. She has grown and matured, she shot a lot of pucks last summer and has been around the system for four years now. All of those things have come together for her.”
On the south wall of Dodge County Ice Arena in Kasson, more than a dozen pictures hang, of former Wildcats who have gone on to play college hockey, either at the Division I or Division III level. Gunderson has no doubt that Carstensen’s photo will be added to that wall in the coming years.
“For her, with all the minutes she plays — she’s key for us on our penalty kill and power play — it’s us putting together a good plan her strength and stamina,” Gunderson said. “Spend a little more time in the weight room, put on a little more muscle and get a little stronger, because she has a few things — Hockey IQ, stickhandling ability, her shooting — that separate her from everyone else.”
Past Players of the Year
|2023||Nora Carstensen||F||Dodge Co.|
|2022||McKenzie Rich||F/D||Dodge Co.|
|2018||Taylor Heise||F||Red Wing|
|2017||Taylor Heise||F||Red Wing|