Forest Lake is ready to battle next season by tapping into incoming young talent
With a handful of young players showing promise this past season, and more players on the way up, the future looks bright for Forest Lake.
FOREST LAKE, Minn. — Forest Lake girls hockey might have finished up the 2021-22 season with a 13-13 record, but the Rangers have a promising future to look forward to.
"I don't think we got off to the best start (this past season)...that second half of the year we ended up starting to play some better hockey," head coach Andrew Richardson said.
The Rangers were 4-7 in the first 11 games of the season, but changed things up and pulled things together to finish the year strong — only falling to Blaine in the Section 7AA quarterfinal.
Forest Lake's offense was led by senior JennaRae Bateman (14 goals, 10 assists). Bateman will be taking her talents to Division III Worcester State University in Massachusetts next season.
"She motored around the ice a lot, she would always backcheck really well...she had a really nice season last year for us," Richardson said.
Hannah Melander was the other definite senior leader on the squad, putting up 22 points in 2021-22. She will play Division II lacrosse for Northern Michigan next year.
"She just played strong," Richardson said. "Whether it was in the faceoff circles or down in the corners, those kind of things, she just played tough."
Even though Bateman and Melander led the offense this year, sophomore Sami Pool was right behind them. Pool, in her second season as a varsity player, tied for second in scoring on the team with 22 points. Her talent is being recognized on a big platform after competing in the Girls 16/17s National Development Camp this summer .
Pool started the season as a forward before switching to defense halfway through the year and excelling at both positions. She can be a versatile player, and that strength can help kickstart the offense for the team in the upcoming year.
Another young player that the Rangers have high expectations for is incoming goaltender Taylor Thompson. Thompson made the the Girls 15s National Development Camp roster, which means she is one of the top six goalies in the state of Minnesota.
Even though there is a lot of hype around Thompson, there are big shoes to fill at the goaltending position with multiple players vying for the starting spot.
Senior Donelle Decker played between the pipes this year, posting a .903 save percentage with three shutouts. Since she has graduated, someone will have to step into her spot.
It seems likely that it will be either Thompson or rising senior Adria Haley, who played a good chunk of varsity minutes this year under Decker. Megan Graetz and Jayden Laskow are the other goaltenders on the roster who will add to the fierce competition for the starting spot.
"I think we'll be pretty strong in that position," Richardson said.
Forest Lake is looking forward to more young, promising players coming in from its youth hockey programs — especially after the 15U team had a strong season this past year.
"We just gotta be the best team we can be," Richardson said when talking about the teams goals for next season. "I'm really looking forward to what we can bring to the table. We're gonna be a tough team to play against."
For more on the incoming players coming to Forest Lake, the impact the graduating seniors had on the program, and how Richardson balances coaching three different high school sports, make sure to listen to the full podcast or watch the interview.