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Tourney Team Preview: Centennial/Spring Lake Park

Lauren O’Hara, a Ms. Hockey finalist and University of Minnesota commit, leads the Cougars with 55 points (35 goals, 20 assists) this year. O’Hara’s totals account for nearly a third of all of Centennial’s goals this year

Centennial/St. Louis Park goaltender Kaitlin Groess.
Sydney Wolf / The Rink Live

Section 5AA

No. 11 Centennial/Spring Lake Park


Coach: Sean Molin

Players to Watch: #23 F Lauren O’Hara, #1 G Kaitlin Groess,


5th Appearance

Last Appearance: 2021

0 State Championships

Centennial/Spring Lake Park pulled a 2-1 upset of No. 6AA Maple Grove in the Section 5AA championship game to book its fifth trip to St. Paul and first since 2021. The Crimson defeated the Cougars twice during the regular season, but Centennial/SLP outshot Maple Grove and got a great performance from junior goalie Kaitlin Groess and a goal in the final two minutes of regulation to claim the win.

Lauren O’Hara, a Ms. Hockey finalist and University of Minnesota commit, leads the Cougars with 55 points (35 goals, 20 assists) this year. O’Hara’s totals account for nearly a third of all of Centennial’s goals this year. Junior forward Noelle Hemr and eighth-grader Grace Laager have 31 and 30 points, respectively. The Cougars have six players with more than 20 points this season.

“[O’Hara] was instrumental as a leader in changing the culture into a positive, winning one,” Centennial/SLP head coach Sean Molin told Let’s Play Hockey . “She is adored by her teammates, and she is always the hardest worker on the ice. She stayed home, didn’t join one of the super teams, and was still able to achieve her goals. She is a perfect example of what a top girls hockey player in Minnesota should be.”

If Centennial goes on a Cinderella run, it’ll likely be Groess that keeps them in it. She has a .929 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average while playing the vast majority of the games this season. The Cougars have given up three shots for every two of their own this year, so strength in net will likely be a deciding factor in their state tournament success.

After starting the year unranked, Centennial/SLP has hovered around the middle of the Class AA Let’s Play Hockey rankings this season. They never went higher than No. 8 and never dropped lower than No. 12, finishing the regular season as the No. 11 team in Class AA.


The Cougars qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 2021, but Thursday’s quarterfinal against top-seeded/No. 1AA Minnetonka will be the team’s first state tournament game since a championship game loss to Edina in 2018. Centennial had to forfeit its 2021 quarterfinal due to COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

Centennial/SLP has a very tough road ahead if it wants to advance in the state tournament, but its toughest opponent might be up first. Minnetonka will be an extremely challenging test for any team in the tournament, and the Skippers will present problems even more difficult than those faced by the Cougars last week against Maple Grove in the section final.

However, if the Cougars can beat Minnetonka in the quarterfinals, why couldn’t they win two more?

Ranked Wins (Based on Feb. 7 Let’s Play Hockey Rankings): No. 13AA Blake (5-3, Dec. 27), No. 19AA North Wright County (6-0, Jan. 28; 5-2, Feb. 14), No. 6AA Maple Grove (2-1, Feb. 17)

Ranked Losses: No. 6AA Maple Grove (2-0, Nov. 12; 5-1, Jan. 17), No. 4AA Gentry Academy (7-4, Dec.28), No. 3AA Andover (7-1, Jan. 24), No. 13AA Blake (3-1, Feb. 4)

Ranked Ties: N/A

Eli is an audience engagement specialist for Forum Communications Co., with experience in producing and designing content on a variety of digital platforms. He works closely with team members to enhance content to improve audience experience.
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