New head coaches at two programs, several NCAA Division I prospects and another program on the rise means the 2013-14 girls’ hockey season doesn’t lack excitement and entertainment.
2012-13: 18-7-1, 15-3-0, first place NWSC
Coach: Melissa Sailor (first season at Andover)
Returners: Seniors Mikayla Goodin (41 points, 21 goals), Abbie Turpin (25 points, 13 goals), Rebecca Voltin (17 points, 12 assists), Sierra Langlie (21 points, 16 assists); junior goalie Maddie Rooney; sophomores Sidney Portner (19 points, 11 goals), McKenzie Soderberg (four assists).
Outlook: Sailor was promoted to head coach after two seasons assisting with the Huskies. With one of the deepest rosters in the area, the defending Northwest Suburban Conference champions have a good chance to repeat, but a deep conference means several teams will be in contention. Sailor said playing tight defensively will help the team continue last year’s success.
2012-13: 13-11-2, 10-6-2, fifth place NWSC
Coach: Pete Hayes (10th season with program)
Returners: Seniors Blair Parent (21 goals, 41 points) and Amanda Kimmerle (10 assists, 16 points).
Outlook: The Tornadoes graduated seven players from last season’s roster including several key contributors.
2012-13: 17-9-0, 13-5-0, second place NWSC
Coach: Steve Guider (12th season)
Returners: Seniors Kiersten Falck (67 points, 44 assists), Samantha Swanstrom (46 points, 24 goals), Katie Swanstrom (41 points, 23 goals) and Abbey Schlagel (40 points, 20 goals).
Outlook: With four NCAA Division I recruits, Blaine should be positioned to score a lot this season. The four seniors combined for 194 points between them. The question comes in goal where Makayla Tilton and Morgan Cin will compete for the starting spot. Tilton made 49 saves in one start last season as a sophomore. Watch for freshman winger Paige Beebe to make some noise after attending the USA Hockey National 15-year-olds camp this summer.
2012-13: 5-21-0, 3-15-0, ninth place NWSC
Coach: Jessica Christopherson (fourth season)
Returners: Senior goalie Ali Weber (3.51 GAA, .880 saves percentage); juniors defenseman Heidi Hannula (12 points, seven assists), forwards Bailey Ryan (eight points, five goals), Whitney Greig and Allie Stalboerger (16 points, 10 assists); sophomore forward Lily Hackett (three points, two goals); and freshman goalie Brittney Buhl (3,00 GAA, .912 saves percentage).
Outlook: Coming off a single-digit win season, coach Christopherson said the question mark going into the season is how will the players respond to a new season. “So far, ours have risen to the challenge and shown that they have a desire to compete and improve,” she said. “We have some players that can make things happen and others that have bought into a specific role that is needed to help the team. It’s great dynamic, they like being the underdog.”
Spring Lake Park-St. Anthony
2012-13: 10-15-2, 5-4-2, fourth place NSC
Coach: Sandy Nelson (first season)
Returners: The Panthers return nearly the entire team intact from last season including both junior goalies Mackenzie Kelly and Molly Sienko. Maddie Kelly, Kim Patterson and Maggie Roenning return to the top line, while defensemen Taylor Turnquist and Allie Guzy will lead the defensive corps.
Outlook: An all-new coaching staff has several former Panthers, including head coach Sandy Nelson (class of 2007). She said the team is eager to play meaningful games after showing progress throughout recent scrimmages. “The biggest thing we’ve worked on is passing in small-sided games,” Nelson said. “We don’t have too many natural goal scorers so we’ve worked on getting garbage goals in front of the net.”
This is Nelson’s first head coaching opportunity after playing four seasons at Ohio State University (2007-2011).
“They’ve always been a good skating team and we’re working on physical play, skill development and building their confidence,” she said. “We have a new way of doing things.”
After a team meeting they set expectations and goals for the season like a top four seed in sections, win games they aren’t expected to and play more physical with more heart. “Obviously we want to have some big wins,” Nelson said before starting the final North Suburban Conference season. Looking ahead to next fall, Nelson is excited in the new challenges of facing some of the top programs in the state including fellow Fogerty-based Blaine. “We’re excited to start a rivalry with them but we want to end this season well,” Nelson said.
St. Francis-North Branch
2012-13: 6-18-1, 1-10-0, tied sixth place NSC
Coach: Beth Kuehl (second season)
Returners: Seniors Maddi Kaehler, Erynn Downey, Danae Douville; juniors Katie Sigfrinius, Danielle Folk, Dakota Lyman, Jessica St. Marie.
Outlook: Preseason information from the coach was not returned.
Jason Olson is at