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Southeastern Minnesota Girls Hockey Focus: Goalies, young and old, off to hot starts

Veteran goalies Sky Hughes (Dodge County), Shelby Davidson (Austin) and Maggie Malecha (Northfield) are off to strong starts, as are young goalies Kiley Buer (Lourdes), Ida Huber (Lourdes), Alivia Haakenson (Mayo) and Aliya Gricius (Winona).

Hughes.jpg
Dodge County goalie Skylee Hughes (00) is off to a strong start, allowing one goal per game and stopping 95.5 percent of the shots she's faced. (Post Bulletin file photo by Traci Westcott)

We’re just more than two weeks into the girls high school hockey season and the standings in Section 1A and 1AA are beginning to take shape, in a way we thought they might.

In 1AA, Lakeville South, Northfield, Dodge County and Owatonna are forming a pack at the top, all with no losses or one loss.

In 1A, the section is looking to be as competitive at the top as it has been in some time. Red Wing dominated the section for a decade, going to state seven times between 2009 and 2018. Rochester Lourdes has controlled things since, going to state the past two years, placing fourth last season. The Eagles are squarely in the mix again, but Austin and Albert Lea are off to hot starts, too.

With every team having played a handful of times, it’s time for our first Girls Hockey Focus of the 2021 season. A handful of goalies in the area are off to hot starts. In fact, you’ll see five of them listed below among the Stars of the Week.

3 STARS OF THE WEEK

1. Sky Hughes, Dodge County

The senior goalie’s play is matching the hype. Hughes is 4-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and an impressive .955 save percentage. She has allowed just one goal in all four of her starts, while facing 22.3 shots per game.

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2. Anna Herzog, Owatonna

The senior forward is off to a scorching start, with 13 points in the first five games of the season. She has recorded at least a point in every game and has two two-goal games and two four-point games.

3. Shelby Davidson, Austin

The senior goalie has allowed a total of five goals in her four starts and is coming off a 22-save shutout against Winona. Davidson has backstopped the Packers to a 4-0-0 start, with a 1.25 GAA and a sterling .959 save percentage. The latter leads the Big Nine Conference and is sixth-best in the state.

Honorable mention (alphabetical order)

Samantha Bogen, Owatonna: Just a freshman, Bogen is lighting up goal lights across the Big Nine. She’s tied for the conference lead with seven goals and is tied for second in points (12).

Kiley Buer, Lourdes: The freshman is part of a tremendous, young 1-2 goalie punch for the Eagles, along with eighth-grader Ida Huber. Buer is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .949 save percentage.

Aliya Gricius, Winona: The Winhawks are 0-5-0 and Gricius’ goals-against average sits at 5.00, but her save percentage is the number to look at (.915). She’s facing an average of 59 shots per game.

Maggie Hanzel, Lourdes: One of the top-scoring defensemen in the state, the Boston U. commit has six goals and nine points in five games.

Alivia Haakenson, Mayo: The freshman has been solid, starting both games Mayo has played, both tight one-goal losses to unbeaten Austin. She has a 2.50 GAA and .886 save percentage.

Kate Holtz, Austin: The junior forward is picking up where she left off last season, with six goals and nine points in four games.

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Abby Wick, Lourdes: The senior forward is averaging two points per game, including a five-point game against Visitation in a 7-1 Eagles win on Jan. 26.

POWER RANKINGS

(Editor's note: These are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in. Teams in the Big Nine Conference, Section 1A and Section 1AA are considered for these rankings.)

1. Lakeville South, 4-1-0

The No. 8-ranked Cougars’ lone loss this season came against No. 13 Eastview in the season opener. Since then, South has allowed just four goals total in victories against Lakeville North, Shakopee, Rosemount and Apple Valley.

2. Northfield, 5-0-0

The Raiders, ranked No. 18 in the latest Class AA state poll, already hold victories against Mankato East, Owatonna and Albert Lea and they have outscored their five opponents 26-4, an average of 5.2-0.8 per game. Goalie Maggie Malecha leads the state with five wins and is 11th in the state with a 1.00 GAA.

3t. Dodge County, 4-1-0

No surprise, the Wildcats are again playing lock-down defense, limiting their past four opponents to one goal each and holding them to an average of 22.25 shots per game. Senior goalie Sky Hughes (listed above) is a big part of that defensive prowess, too. The Wildcats are balanced offensively, too, as 11 players have three or more points.

3t. Owatonna, 4-1-0

The No. 20-ranked Huskies’ lone loss was a narrow 3-2 setback against Northfield. Owatonna has otherwise been dominant on both ends, outscoring opponents by an average of 7.0-1.6 per game. Their offensive firepower -- nine players already have seven or more points -- can overshadow the fact that they have an outstanding goalie, too, junior Ava Wolfe (4-1-0, 1.60 GAA, .904 save pct.).

5. Lourdes, 3-2-0

The Eagles have learned that they can win and they can hang around in any game by playing strong defense and trusting in their young goalie tandem of freshman Kiley Buer and eighth-grader Ida Huber. They might also have the best defenseman in the state, senior Boston U. commit Maggie Hanzel.

TUC (Teams Under Consideration)

Austin (4-0-0): The Packers have been outstanding defensively, allowing 1.25 goals per game.

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Mankato East (2-2-0): The Cougars’ two losses were tight games against Northfield and Owatonna.

Albert Lea (4-1-0): The Tigers’ schedule stiffens, with Austin, Northfield and Owatonna looming in the next two weeks.

GAMES TO WATCH

Albert Lea at Austin (Today, 7:15 p.m.): Not only is this a matchup of two heated rivals, but more importantly, it’s a key early-season game for positioning in Section 1A.

Waseca at Lourdes (Thursday, 7:15 p.m.): Waseca is winless, but it’s a big game for the Eagles as it’s their lone matchup against a Section 1A opponent in the regular season.

Breck at Dodge County (Saturday, 1 p.m.): Dodge County’s two games this week are big ones. The Wildcats face Luverne, the No. 15-ranked team in Class A, on Friday, then they host No. 3-ranked Breck on Saturday.

Northfield at Austin (Tuesday, Feb. 9, 7:15 p.m.): Both teams are currently undefeated. They may not be by the time this game rolls around, but it’s still a matchup of two excellent goalies.

STATS THAT STICK OUT

2, 4: Minnesota State University, Mankato, commit Taylor Otremba is off to a scorching start with 10 goals and 15 points through five games. The junior forward already has two hat tricks and four multi-point games.

3: Rochester Mayo has already had three of its five scheduled games postponed. It has suffered a pair of one-goal losses against Austin, and has had games against Owatonna, Century/John Marshall and Mankato East postponed.

11: Dodge County has shown its depth early. The Wildcats have had 11 players record points this season. All of them have at least three points, none of them have more than six.

41.8: Rochester Century/John Marshall goalie Abigail Conners is 1-4-0 so far, but she has faced four of the top five teams in the Big Nine Conference -- Albert Lea, Mankato East, Owatonna and Northfield -- and has faced 41.8 shots per game. She’s played remarkably well in those games, compiling an .885 save percentage.

90: Shots on goal by Century/JM in its season-opening victory at Winona. Winhawks goalie Aliya Gricius stopped 86 of them, including a whopping 43 in the first period.

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