A Northwest Suburban Conference girls’ hockey championship banner will soon swing from the wall of the Andover High School gymnasium after the eighth-ranked Huskies (16-5-1, 14-2-0) fought back from 3-2 down to top No. 16 ranked Robbinsdale Armstrong/Cooper 4-3 at the New Hope Ice Arena in Crystal, Jan. 25.
Robbinsdale came into the game second place in the standings, a half game ahead of third-place and No. 19-ranked Blaine, to add pressure on both benches to find a way to win a key conference game.
Huskies coach Ben Monahan could sense his squad’s nervousness on the bench, given the pressure for a positive outcome.
“Down 3-2, I could tell the team gathered around each other and I could just see that energy on the bench grow and the kids get super excited enough to show emotion on the bench,” Monahan said. “To see them get the game-winner late, on top of the comeback, was a blast.”
Andover took an early lead on a goal from Abbie Turpin, 4:35 in the contest, but Robbinsdale, in front of a large crowd, complete with pep band, scored three unanswered goals to lead 3-1 with less than six minutes left in the second period.
Huskies Sidney Portner, who assisted on Turpin’s goal in the opening period, found herself scoring a power play goal with 2:04 left in the second period to make it 3-2 with assist from Sierra Langlie and Rebecca Voltin.
“[The late goal] actually set up perfect for us,” Monahan said. “I told them, ‘It’s in our hands and we can do what we want with it.’ We haven’t had games like this where we could battle back for a win. We haven’t had that uphill game in the conference and I told them to, ‘Treat the third period like it could be the last period you’ll play all year.’
“It got the kids pumped and excited and we just continued the philosophy of three lines. Our depth is a strength for us and we had goals to show for it all over the place on two lines plus a defenseman.”
Turpin tied the game at 3-3 with an even strength goal at the 6:41 mark of the third period with an assist going to Mikayla Goodin.
Huskies junior Sierra Langlie scored the game-winner, 14 seconds into a power play, with just 2:25 left in regulation to complete Andover’s comeback.
Power play chances played a big part of the game as the teams combined to go four-for-seven on the player-advantage and Robbinsdale held a 36-33 shots advantage. Huskies sophomore stand-out goalkeeper Maddie Rooney posted 33 saves and her saves percentage sits at a razor-thin .934 mark, although goals against rose slightly to 1.44.
Andover won the first meeting of the season 5-1, but Armstrong was playing without one of its top scorers. “We had to stay focused and we knew they weren’t going to lay-over and just hand it to us,” Monahan said. “We had to battle for it and every time we played them we’ve played well. I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy tonight.”
Monahan desperately wanted to grab the win and not have to scramble to overcome back-to-back losses over the final three regular season games to capture the conference title.
“We didn’t want to go into sections with a bad taste in our mouth so tonight was a relief for us because we can focus on sections over the final games here,” Monahan said as his team has a chance to grab a top-two seed for sections.
“We know Champlin [Park] will be a tough game and it wouldn’t be easy to go over there and need that win. We have three games now to not feel the pressure and can focus on playing hockey and working toward our next goal.”