Girls hockey: Heitzman picks right time to shine in Proctor-Hermantown’s Section 7A championship victory
Defending-champion Mirage overcome penalties to return to state tournament.
VIRGINIA — Proctor-Hermantown junior Reese Heitzman was more of a distributor during her first year on varsity last season, and she was perfectly fine with that.
Hard to argue when the Mirage went undefeated while winning the Class A state girls hockey championship.
Heitzman continues to be more a pass-first player but she still can score it when necessary, as evidenced Wednesday.
Heitzman tied her career high with two goals to lead the top-seeded Mirage to a 3-0 victory over second-seeded Duluth Marshall in a penalty-filled Section 7A title game Wednesday at Iron Trail Motors Event Center.
“To score two goals in a game like this, it’s pretty special,” Heitzman said. “They came out hard, we just came out harder. We wanted it.”
The Mirage will find out Sunday who the play in the Class A quarterfinals Wednesday, Feb. 23, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“It never gets old. You can never get enough of it,” Heitzman said of the state tournament at the X.
Standout Izy Fairchild got the scoring started on the power play at 12:07 in the first period as the Mirage (19-7-1) went into the first intermission up 1-0 while holding a 13-3 shots advantage over the Hilltoppers (17-8).
The shots on goal tally tightened in the second period, in part due to Mirage penalties. However, Marshall couldn’t get a shot past Proctor-Hermantown senior goalie Abby Pajari, who finished with the 19-save shutout.
The closest Marshall came was a goal that was later waved off for being kicked in. Yeah, it was that kind of night for the Hilltoppers, a budding team that just isn’t quite there yet. Marshall, which fell in the 2021 Section 7A final to Proctor-Hermantown 6-0, only lost 2-1 to the Mirage two weeks ago in Proctor.
Sophomore goalie Chloe Clark had 31 saves to lead the Hilltoppers.
“Losing championship games … it sucks, right?” Marshall coach Amanda Boulier said. “It stings, it’s not the result we wanted. We worked all season to get past this one team, right? But I was proud of our effort, I was proud of our resiliency and the way we stuck together as a group. Even with two minutes left in the game, they remained positive and encouraging, even the younger players. That just speaks to our team as a whole.”
While Marshall continued to self-destruct with a man advantage, Heitzman made them pay with a shorthanded goal at 6:14 in the second period after teammate Alyssa Yokoma poked it up off the boards and ahead to her. She added an insurance goal with a one-timer off a nice feed from Nya Sieger just 28 seconds into the third period.
“That really took the wind out of our sails,” Boulier said of Heitzman’s shorthanded goal. “Like I told them, our mindset changed when we got the power play. We just kind of backed off a little bit. We had more of our chances on 5-on-5 because we knew we had to work for it. That was definitely frustrating. That shorthanded goal was just the icing on the cake.”
And a short time later, the celebration was on.
The Mirage lined up for team pictures with the Section 7A championship trophy, and afterward, it was a bit of a struggle for Pajari to get up off the ice, with all that gear on, and that trophy was big.
Pajari certainly had ample reason to be holding it. She’s been a rock in net for the Mirage this season and Tuesday she was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Senior Goalie of the Year Award presented by Let’s Play Hockey.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Mirage coach Emma Stauber said. “She’s just been phenomenal.”
Duluth Marshall 0-0-0—0
First period — 1. Izy Fairchild (Nya Sieger, Jane Eckstrom), 12:07 (pp).
Second period — 2. Reese Heitzman (Alyssa Yokoma), 6:14 (sh).
Third period — 3. Heitzman (Sieger, Eckstrom), :28.
Saves — Chloe Clark, DM, 31; Abby Pajari, PH, 19.