by Jason Olson
Andover senior goalie Madison Denny shouldn’t be overlooked much longer.
The two-year captain and four-year starter took her lumps in the crease while winning eight and nine games her first two years before last season’s 13-9-0 record as a junior and is well on her way to posting new career highs this season between the pipes for the No. 17 ranked Huskies.
She’s always produced good statistics and has now turned the attention toward Anoka to make noise not only in the Northwest Suburban Conference but in sections.
Not only has she led the team on the ice with a razor-slim 0.96 goals against average and .956 saves percentage over 16 games, but it’s her composure off the ice that impresses coach Ben Monahan the most.
“I really, strongly believe I’d put her up against any goalie in the state,” he said.
Denny is among the state’s top netminders on paper and should be a factor in post-season senior goalie honors as she picked up her fifth shutout of the season Jan. 5, her third over the last four games.
“When you get numbers like that, now you’re in the wow factor,” Monahan said. If Denny is able to maintain that level of play, Monahan expects to see her name on the ballot for the Senior Goalie of the Year Award, he said.
Not only does she frustrated the opposition with her ability on the ice, it’s her guidance and leadership during practice and in the locker room that impresses Monahan the most.
“It’s a coach’s dream to have a senior leader for us like Maddie,” he said. “She’s a very good catalyst for us to have. She loves to compete. If there is one word to describe her it is compete. She’s always ready to go at the start of practice and wants to stay out there after practice. Every day she’s trying to make herself better.”
Denny doesn’t fit the mold of a typical goalie and also bucks the trend in dedicating even more time to hockey camps and elite leagues.
She wasn’t invited to play in the Elite League last fall, but did play in the Advanced 17s as a junior.
“Maddie’s an all-around leader and to have a goalie be that way and that type of person is rare,” Monahan said. “Typically they’re in their own world and superstitions, but she tries to rally the troops before and after games.”
Superstitions still abound for Denny, but as for being in her own world, not a chance.
“I’m really picky about that,” she said about pre-game rituals which include a play list of music while she puts her left skate on first, followed by her right pad.
“I take about 10 minutes to go out in the hall and visualize by myself,” Denny said, before heading back into the locker room, typically blaring the latest agreed on music.
Her leadership skills inside the locker room were on display after a 2-0 win over Elk River. This came after posting back-to-back shutouts. She’s on quite a hot streak, giving up one goal over the last four games.
“She told the team during practice, ‘Yesterday was a great win but let’s not lose focus of what we’re trying to accomplish here.‘ We have ultimate goals we’ve put in place,” Monahan said. “The rest of the team is really eye’s open when she’s talking.”
Setting the standard for practice and in a game for the underclassmen is another aspect Monahan appreciates, “She gives 110 percent,” he said. “Her work ethic and how if you work hard you can achieve things are two big things our younger kids take away.”
She posted an 8-11-4 mark as a freshman during the 2008-09 season with a 2.44 goals against average and a .915 saves percentage with two shutouts.
As a sophomore, she posted a 9-14-2 record with a .914 saves percentage and 2.77 goals against average with one shutout in 2009-10.
As a junior she helped turn the Huskies record around with a 13-9-0 performance and a slim 2.78 goals against average and a .910 saves percentage, which included two shutouts.
Rising to the No. 17 spot in the latest state coaches poll is special for Denny and her team, but a lot of work remains.
“I think we’ve gained a lot of respect this year,” she said.
Andover has had several one-goal wins which only add to the respect factor and to what is becoming one of the stronger girls’ hockey conferences in the state with powers like Anoka, Elk River, Centennial, Blaine and last year’s Class AA state third-place winner from Coon Rapids.
“Playing in a conference like this only makes us better and I think we get up to play in those games more,” Denny said.
Making the decision to strap on the pads and play between the pipes was an easy decision for Denny.
“I know that at the end of my game, when I get a shutout, that’s the very best I could’ve done that game, whereas as a forward you don’t really know,” she said.
Naturally, the die-heart goalie would rather stay busy in a game than face the minimum shots to pick up a win. “I feel like I improve during a game rather than make my stats look good and don’t improve,” Denny said.
As for a career-high in shutouts and gaudy stats this season, Denny is quick to point out the help in front of her for the success. “Our defense is playing really well right now and our forecheck is really on right now,” she said. “The shots I’ve seen have been from the outside, our defense has done a great job to keep them wide and I’ve been really focused before the game. I think we all have.”
Another by-product of the success has been in the increased physical play inside the crease.
“There are certain teams who do [play more physical around the goal] and try to get into my head, but my defense does a great job clearing them out of the way,” Denny said.
Monahan pointed to a recent contest at Champlin Park where Denny didn’t skate away from the pile in front of the goalmouth, which caught the attention of the referees. “They’re starting to run into her to get her going,” he said. “She was throwing elbows after a play and after the game the refs told me that she could’ve skated out of the area. I said she’s my senior captain. She’s not going to back down and her mentality is to love competition not to lose.”
Anytime a team is 11-5-0 and winning so decisively, thoughts about peaking before sections might creep into the mind, which had the veteran goalie talking it over with her dad after shutting out Elk River Jan. 5.
“We were just talking about that after the game, but I think we can keep this up as long as we can keep our practices up,” Denny said. “Our coaches always say. ‘Never show when you’re too high or when you’re too low. Just play our game.’”
The five losses have come against defending state champion and No. 4 ranked Minnetonka, No. 6 Edina, No. 3 Anoka, No. 7 Elk River and Maple Grove.
While she hasn’t made a decision about playing college hockey, her goal is to play next winter while working toward a degree in psychology and minor in criminal justice to eventually work in forensic psychology.
She’s looked at Bemidji State University not only because of the hockey program and major, but because it close to her other passion, being closer to prime hunting and fishing land.
“Being an outdoors person and I really like the campus,” Denny said.
According to Monahan, she’s had interest from Gustavus Adolphus, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, St. Mary’s, Concordia-Milwaukee and Concordia-Moorhead to name a few.
The best part of being around the Huskies on a daily basis this season has been the attitude of her teammates, Denny said.
“After wins, like [Jan. 5] I love the attitude in the locker room,” she said. “Nobody singles themselves out, they’re happy for the girl next to you. If Mikayla [Goodin] scores, everyone is pumped up for her. It’s not just you, we’re about everybody and we need to play that way to have success.”
That mentality quickly changed after an early-season meeting.
“We struggled with that earlier in the season and we worked to change our attitudes,” Denny said.
The tipping point came after a couple tough losses. “We got frustrated, we felt we were working so hard and nothing was clicking,” she said. “We learned that if one person was down, it brought the whole team down.”
Having played with the same group since the age of seven has given her the ability to know teammates very well.
Denny rose to the role of team leader over time, she said. “Having the opportunity to step up and make [the Huskies] the best it can be, I just kind of took it on,” she said.
Just like she’s taken on defending the Huskies crease for the last four seasons.