No late rallies required. No drama. No goals allowed.
It was a complete and utter dismantling of the rest of the Section 7AA field by second-ranked Andover this time around, capped by an 8-0 victory over eighth-ranked Forest Lake in the section championship game Feb. 13 at Fogerty Arena in Blaine. The Huskies outscored their three opponents 31-0 in the tournament, earning their third section title in a row to advance to the Class AA State Tournament Feb. 20-22.
“Honestly it’s just, no words,” Andover captain Kennedy Little said. “I don’t even know what just happened. We were expecting a tough battle and just grinding it out, but we just played our game and obviously it worked in our favor.
“Our whole team, it’s surreal. I’m just so proud of everyone on this team. I’m at a loss for words right now. We’re just so pumped. This is our dream.”
Andover seized control from the outset, blitzing the Rangers with a first-period flurry. Madison Kaiser opened up the scoring, quickly followed by goals from Peyton Hemp and Gabby Krause. Hemp tallied another goal right before the first intermission, putting Forest Lake in a 4-0 hole it had no chance of climbing out of.
“The biggest key for us was to come out hard and not let up,” Andover head coach Melissa Volk said. “I was very happy with how the team played.”
Heading into the second period holding a commanding lead, Andover didn’t ease up, continuing to apply pressure.
Madison Kaiser buried her second goal of the night two minutes into the second period, then Sara Kaiser made it 6-0 four minutes later.
“Just good disciplined hockey, play our own hockey,” Volk said. “Own possession out there.”
With the big lead prompting running time in the third period, Elisebeth Tammi and Krause delivered goals to add a pair of final exclamation points on the absolutely dominant championship performance.
“It’s a great feeling, definitely,” senior goalie Amanda Pelkey said. “It’s a great atmosphere there at the ‘X.’ We all really wanted it this year too and everyone’s just really pumped to be back again.”
Andover outshot Forest Lake 37-14 in the game. Jamie Nelson and Hemp each added a pair of assists, with one each by Tyra Turner and Isa Goettl.
Andover reached the section finals by shutting out Princeton 13-0 in the quarterfinals Feb. 6, then blanking Elk River/Zimmerman 10-0 in the semifinals Feb. 8. Pelkey stopped every shot she faced in the tournament, including 14 against Forest Lake.
“The defense is good at clearing everyone out in front of me and they’re such a big help,” Pelkey said. “We wouldn’t have had three shutouts in a row if it wasn’t for the defense in front of me. They’re amazing.
“It’s fantastic. We came here knowing we want to show what we have and make a statement going forward into the state tournament and that’s what we did.”
In all, the 25-2 Huskies now have 11 shutouts on the season, allowing just 26 total goals. Pelkey was named one of five finalists for the state’s Senior Goalie of the Year Award, extending the line of elite goaltender’s to have come through the program.
“It’s been a big step up for me,” Pelkey said. “I was backing up Cassidy (Stumo) for the past three years, and then to be put in the starting position on such a great team like this is definitely challenging, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s amazing.”
On the offensive side, the Huskies enter state with seven double-digit goal scorers and another seven players beyond that with at least 10 points on the season. Firepower from a variety of sources, for the season’s biggest games.
“I think we have a lot of depth this year, which we haven’t really had in past years,” said Nelson, who earlier in the week was named one of 10 semifinalists for the state’s Ms. Hockey Award. “Every line is producing.”
The path back to state was much smoother sailing than a year ago, when Andover needed a game-tying goal in the closing seconds of regulation in the section finals against Forest Lake, before scoring the game-winner less than a minute into overtime.
“I didn’t have any heart attacks this year! It was pretty relieving – we just went to work,” Nelson said.
Andover and Forest Lake also played to a close battle earlier this season, with the Huskies earning a 3-1 win Dec. 12.
“It was pretty rewarding because we’ve put in a lot of work since the last time we played them in the regular season,” Nelson said. “We can’t let up and we didn’t.
“We were confident, but not cocky. We knew we had to play our game and if we did things would turn out well for us.”
It quickly developed into a third section title in a row, with a chance to avenge a tough ending to last year’s state tournament.
After coming within an overtime defeat in the semifinals of reaching the championship game in an eventual fourth-place finish, the Huskies are focused and determined heading into this year’s tournament.
“I think last year definitely was a little bit of a slap in the face,” Volk said. “Hoping we’re going into it with a little bit more of a mentality of what we need to do to accomplish our goal.”
“We’re determined to redeem ourselves,” Nelson said. “And get things done.”