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Luverne begins state girls hockey action on Wednesday

The Luverne High School girls hockey team finally overcame its nemesis, New Ulm, to win the Section 3A tournament. Next up comes state.

Luverne forward Payton Behr (15) moves the puck against Proctor/Hermantown in the second period of the State Class A quarterfinals Friday, March 26, 2021, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Luverne forward Payton Behr (15) moves the puck against Proctor/Hermantown in the second period of the State Class A quarterfinals Friday, March 26, 2021, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

NEW ULM -- The Luverne High School girls hockey team is set to compete in the Class A state tournament for the third time in three years. Gaining entry into the 2022 tournament was accomplished by beating a very troublesome opponent Tuesday night in the Section 3A finals.

The Cards, after losing twice to their nemesis, the New Ulm Eagles, in the regular season (7-3 and 6-0), won the one that mattered as they defeated the top seed of the section tourney 3-2 in double overtime in the finals.

The Cardinals coach brings up some of the key players on the team this year.

By virtue of the thrilling victory, Luverne will play its first-round state tourney game on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Seedings and matchups for the state tournament will take place today (Saturday).

Though Luverne, which was seeded second in the section tourney, does not yet know who it will play in the quarterfinal round, that didn’t matter Tuesday night to head coach Tony Sandbulte, who said, “We’re just happy that we get the chance to go.”

He and his players are, of course, excited to finally dispatch the Eagles to get there.


Despite producing consistently excellent seasons nearly every year from 2015-16 to 2020-21, the Cardinals had lost twice to New Ulm in the regular season in every one of those years -- even in 2015-16, 2019-20 and 2020-21 when they qualified for state.

“They’ve always been the team to beat,” said Sandbulte the morning after the team’s double-overtime sectional win.

But since 2016, the Cardinals have been unable to win a state tournament game.

Traditionally, it’s been an uphill battle for southwest Minnesota hockey teams at the state level, but Sandbulte said he’s gained optimism since poring over the records of other 2021-22 top teams. Luverne defeated three other teams that were playing in section championship games this week.

“We just want to keep working to narrow that gap, to show that we’re coming on and making good progress,” he said about Luverne’s 2022 state tournament goals. “We got a little chip on our shoulder too; we’re probably the smallest school in (state) Class A hockey.

“The recipe for success is, really, it starts in our defensive zone … and then we want to capitalize on our chances,” Sandbulte said.

Next week will be another opportunity for the Cardinals’ most celebrated player, Kamryn Van Batavia, to bask in the state tournament glow. The media-shy Van Batavia is not one to enjoy the personal attention state tournament hockey offers, but it’s impossible to ignore. The 6-foot junior, who has committed to play hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato after she graduates, leads the state in scoring and in points.

Other teams don’t ignore her, that’s for sure.


“They know who she is. There are no secrets up there,” said Sandbulte. “They bottle her up pretty good. So it’s even more important for the girls around her to play stronger.”

Fortunately for Sandbulte, he’s got several other fine players, including senior Reghan Bork, who is committed to Concordia University in Moorhead.

Luverne’s victory over New Ulm in Tuesday’s section final was one to remember.

After playing to a 2-2 tie through three periods, neither team scored at the New Ulm Civic Center in the first seven-minute overtime period. The game-winner came after 5:43 elapsed in the 17-minute second overtime period and it came off the stick of Bork, with Mallory Von Tersch and Payton Behr being credited with assists.

There was a face-off, said Sandbulte, and the Cardinals threw the puck to the net, where it bounced off the goalkeeper’s pad.

“And Reghan shelved it,” he said. “And then it all broke loose.”

Van Batavia scored the team’s first two goals, both in the second period. The first goal was assisted by Bork, and the second was unassisted.

Though New Ulm has had Luverne’s number for years, the opposite turned out to be true on Tuesday.


“We’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time. We just wanted to play for each other and lay it all out on the ice. And they did,” Sandbulte said.

He added: “It was a packed rink, and on their ice. It was really special to us.”

Luverne 0 2 0 0 1 -- 3

New Ulm 1 0 1 0 0 -- 2

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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