Big third period pushes Warroad into Class A girls title game
Top-seed Warroad will face Proctor/Hermantown in championship
ST. PAUL – Warroad’s blueprint to victory was similar to Proctor/Hermantown’s similar win on Friday: take a tight game and make it look like a blowout.
Now both those teams will be playing for a state title.
The top-seed Warriors carried a one-goal lead into the third period and poured it on with four goals in a span of 2:08 to seal the 4-0 semifinal victory over South St. Paul in the Class A girls semifinals Friday, Feb. 25 at the Xcel Energy Center.
“We were frustrated a little bit (after two periods),” Warroad coach David Marvin said. “We stuck to our plan, we were fortunate to be up a goal and in the end, I think we wore them out.”
Tayla Hendrickson broke the scoreless tie with 7:21 left in the second period and Madison Lavergne made it 2-0 at the 11:41 mark of the third. Lila Lanctot recorded a natural hat trick (her first career hat trick), scoring Warroad’s last three goals.
Lavergne and Kaya Sandy each finished with three assists. Kendra Nordick stopped all 16 shots she faced to earn her 11th shutout of the season, tying her for the state lead.
South St. Paul goaltender Delaney Norman allowed all five Warroad goals and made 24 saves, before turning the net over to Molly Jeffrey, who finished with three saves.
The Warriors’ 2021 season ended in the Class A semifinals with a 3-1 loss to Proctor/Hermantown.
“We’re so pumped right now,” Lavergne said. “We’re excited to go back to the ‘ship. We haven’t been there in a few years. We’re ready now.”
Proctor/Hermantown overtakes Orono in third period
A hockey game can get out of hand quickly when one team takes a tripping penalty and allows a goal in the opening 86 seconds, especially when the opponent has one of the top offenses in the state and scored six goals in the previous meeting.
That’s the position Proctor/Hermantown put itself in Friday afternoon and while some may have expected an early knockout, the Mirage survived the absorbed the blow and played an effective game of okey-doke before it went on a late offensive surge.
No. 3 Proctor/Hermantown scored all four of its goals in the third period and got 29 saves from Abby Pajari to eliminate second-seeded Orono 4-1 in the Class A semifinals Friday, Feb. 25 at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Mirage (21-7-1 overall) advances to the finals where it will defend its 2021 Class A title against second-seeded Warroad in the Class A championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We did a good job of keeping our energy on the bench (during the first two periods),” said junior forward Reese Heitzman, who scored two goals – including the game-winner – for the Mirage.
“We didn’t let anything get to our heads because we knew there was a third period coming up and we responded.”
Orono defeated Proctor/Hermantown 6-3 in an early-season game that went back-and-forth for two periods, but on that day, it was the Spartans exploding for three goals in the third period.
“We had 10 roles to fill with newcomers who were young and inexperienced,” Mirage coach Emma Stauber said. “We hadn’t really had our lines set and we were still finding our chemistry at that point.”
Heitzman took the tripping penalty in the offensive zone that led to Orono’s goal on Friday. The penalty was recorded at the 27-second mark and 59 seconds later, Mae Grandy threw a wrist shot on net without hitting anyone out front as the puck found its way past Pajari’s stickside.
But Pajari was a reason, if not the main reason, Proctor/Hermantown kept Orono from building on its lead. She didn’t need to stop a lot of shots (she faced 13 shots in the first two periods) but she made a couple big ones, including a glove save from point-blank range early in the second.
She stopped all 17 shots she faced in the third period.
In regard to Pajari’s performance, Heitzman said “she’s awesome” and Stauber called her a ninja.
“She was ready, she’s always ready,” Stauber said. “She’s solid, she’s phenomenal and she’s there when we need her. She saw some high shots but she was there to pick up anything low.”
Orono leading scorer Iyla Ryskamp used a series of nifty toe drags to beat the Proctor/Hermantown defense on three occasions in the first period, but Pajari stopped her each time.
Ryskamp, who’s offensive numbers (45 goals and 43 assists for 88 total points) rank in the top 10 statewide, was held without a point in a game for just the fourth time this season.
The Spartans fall to 24-5 and will play South St. Paul in the third-place game at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
“(The Mirage) was obviously keying in on Iyla Ryskamp, but she did a really good job of getting through lanes and getting shots off,” Orono coach Sean Fish said.
The Mirage came out of the second intermission and after 34 minutes without a goal, it wasted minimal time getting on the scoreboard.
Rylee Gilbertson made a behind-the-back pass through the skates from the side of the crease over to Hannah Graves, who tapped the puck into an open net to tie the game 1:03 into the third period and that’s when the floodgates opened.
Heitzman and Jane Eckstrom each added goals before the 9-minute mark and Heitzman added an empty-net goal with eight seconds left. Nya Sieger assisted on the last three goals.
“Everyone became way more energized,” Heitzman said. “(The first goal) was a 100-percent boost. It was incredible.”
Added senior forward Ember Kehtel: “It gave us a huge adrenaline rush. We were able to keep scoring more goals from that point. We just needed to get the first one.”