Hopkins junior forward Nina Rodgers moved into second place among the state’s top scorers following a five-goal, one-assist game as the Royals overwhelmed Coon Rapids 7-1 Dec. 6.
Rodgers’ six-point game boosts her season total to 30 points as Hopkins scored at least seven goals for the fifth time this season. It only took Rodgers 11 seconds to find her first goal of the evening as she completed a hat-trick less than 14 minutes into the second period en route to a 8-2 record for Hopkins.
Many of Rodgers’ goals came from being in the right place at the right time collecting rebounds in front of Cardinals goalie Ali Weber, who made the initial save, but couldn’t control the rebound from the initial shot.
Coon Rapids coach Jessica Christopherson said the plan was to keep her out of the middle of the rink, which the Cardinals did, at times, but she slipped to the backdoor on developing plays around the Cardinals goal for nearly all of her scoring chances.
“We knew about her. We did a decent job of containing her, but we consistently left her alone and she’s too strong, we got out-muscled and she buried every mistake we made,” she said.
Meanwhile, Coon Rapids’ young team continued to struggle to find goals at the start of the games as it fell to 2-8 overall and 2-3 over the last five contests.
That theme of the Royals capitalizing on each Coon Rapids mistake proved to be the ultimate difference, according to Christopherson: “We got caught standing around a bit and the biggest thing was that we weren’t ready to go at the beginning of the game which has been a problem all year,” she said.
Conceding early goals hasn’t helped the psyche of the young, experienced squad, Christopherson said. In 10 games, seven have been one-goal games, losing five of those close games.
“It’s hard to fight through those things,” Christopherson said. “Finding consistency is what we’re looking for against a good team but we made too many mistakes and a good team will make you pay.”
As one-sided as the final score was, Coon Rapids cut the Royals lead in half with a power play goal midway through the second period. The well-executed play developed deep inside the Cardinals end of the rink when Allie Stalboerger hit the tape of Heidi Hannula’s stick on a 40-foot, cross-rink pass as she cross the center line. Hannula carried the puck into the Royals corner of the rink before cutting back across two Hopkins skaters to free herself up for a look at goal. Hannula sent a centering pass toward the Royals goal just as Amber Harris came crashing in on goal for a perfectly executed one-timer over the glove of Royals goalie Erin O’Neil.
Coon Rapids had other scoring chances, but was held to just 18 shots while Hopkins scored seven times on 25 shots on goal.
Christopherson said her side showed some glimpses of offense but clearly not enough to matter in the outcome Thursday night. “We had some nice tips and screens and that’s one thing we’ve been getting [right] for the most part, even if the power play isn’t scoring, they’re moving the puck,” she said.
The aggressiveness of the Royals forecheck and defense caught the Cardinals by surprise. “That’s one thing we haven’t seen and they were aggressive across the rink and our kids kind of backed away from a little bit, rather than dig-in and get feisty,” Christopherson said. “We need a little more muscle and heart and they’ll be all right [Friday]. It’s all correctable things.”
Next up for the Cardinals is a Saturday conference game against Champlin Park, meaning a quick turn-around should help the Cardinals put this game behind them.