The Roseau girls hockey team has been a regular at the state hockey tournament over the last three seasons.
The Rams won two section championships and are ranked eighth in Class AA, according to Let's Play Hockey. They're a team that's eyeing a return trip to St. Paul in March, but Alexandria hopes to get in their way.
The Cardinals (1-1-1) took the Rams (3-0-1) the distance on Saturday at the Runestone Community Center. After three periods and an eight-minute overtime, both teams settled for a 1-1 tie. It was a back-and-forth matchup that could be vital for 8AA playoff seeding.
"This is a very important tie because being a No. 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs is one of our goals this year," junior goaltender Jordan O'Kane said. "Obviously, it's not a win. But Roseau is a very talented team. We'll take a tie because it's not a loss."
Alexandria started the way it wanted to by scoring the game's first goal two minutes into the contest. Hanley Block put home a pass from Ella Westlund to give the Cardinals an early advantage.
"Roseau is a great team and a great section opponent. We knew we had to get out to a quick start," head coach Molly Arola said. "We wanted to get on the board first, and we were able to do that."
Roseau struggled to generate offensive chances in the first period until an unforced turnover put the Rams on a 2-on-1. Memphis Mertens slid a one-time pass to Kate Helgeson to even the game. Despite controlling most of the first period, the Cardinals went to the locker room tied 1-1.
Roseau took a different approach in the second period. In the opening four minutes, the Rams put seven shots on goal. Alexandria had plenty of time in the offensive zone throughout the second period but little to show for it. The Rams consistently found ways to redirect shots and fill up lanes to the net.
"We couldn't have survived that second period without Jordan O'Kane," Arola said. "She was phenomenal all game, but we didn't help her out at all in that second period. We were glad to get out of that period tied 1-1, and that's thanks to that girl in goal."
O'Kane made 39 saves on 40 shots . Roseau had several point-blank opportunities that she turned aside to keep the game locked at 1-1.
"I always tell myself to live by the three C's: Cool, calm and collected," O'Kane said. "I don't let any goals get to me. I told myself to move on from that first goal I gave up because Roseau is a talented team, and I had to keep my composure. I knew I was going to see a lot of shots."
The Cardinals made it clear they were going to put more shots on goal in the third period. Roseau goaltender Jada Pelowski made 29 saves of her own in the draw.
Both teams had prime scoring chances in the eight-minute overtime session but came up empty-handed. With 1:31 left in the game, Roseau went on the power play. Alexandria's penalty kill unit staved off five power plays against Roseau's high-powered forwards.
"We did a good job of killing penalties," Arola said. "We still have some work to do to tighten up a little bit. Our power play wasn't the greatest total. It's back to work on Monday in practice."
These two teams are familiar with each other despite it being Alexandria's second season in Section 8AA. The fall exhibition season allowed both teams to get time on the ice against each other before the season started.
"A lot of us know some of their players," O'Kane said. "We played them a couple of times in the fall. We watched parts of their game against Moorhead last night, so we studied how they play and their habits. It's helpful because I know the tendencies of some of their players."
Alexandria's most recent two games were against two of the top 10 teams in Class AA. On Jan. 16, the Cardinals fell in a hard-fought game in Minnetonka. Getting early competition against two of the top teams in the state is a good measuring stick for Alexandria.
"It really shows us that we can play with any team we step on the ice with this year," O'Kane said. "Even against Tonka, we were with them for most of the game. Getting these games in early and showing what we can do helps build confidence."
ROSEAU 1 0 0 0 - 1
ALEXANDRIA 1 0 0 0 - 1
SCORING- FIRST PERIOD- Alexandria- Hanley Block (Ella Westlund) 2:17; Roseau- Kate Helgeson (Memphis Mertens) 12:47; PENALTIES- Alexandria- 10 minutes on 5 infractions; Roseau- 4 minutes on 2 infractions; GOALTENDING- Alexandria- Jordan O’Kane, D, 39 saves, 1 goal allowed; Roseau- Jada Pelowski, D, 29 saves, 1 goal allowed