The Andover girls hockey team knew their school had never gone to state in their sport, and knew they had an excellent chance to be the first, having advanced to the section finals against a team they’d beaten and tied previously.
All the Huskies had to do was finish the job, which they did with a 3-1 win over Elk River-Zimmerman, capped by an empty-net goal, in the Section 7AA title game Thursday evening at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.
“We were really confident we could go out and be our best and go to state,” said Sierra Langlie, senior captain and one of a foursome of defenders who sparkled in the game. “We were definitely nervous, but really confident. We stayed positive all week in our practices and in the whole section finals and we really worked well together.”
The Huskies, who played in a different section previously and hadn’t come close to state, will take a 16-9-3 record to Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.
“This is so exciting,” said Lexi Turpin, who delivered the first goal. “I can’t believe this is happening. In the locker room, everyone was so happy, so pumped up. We can’t believe we are actually going the state tournament.”
Also scoring were Abbie Turpin and Mikayla Goodin (the empty-netter) while the Huskies defensive tandems — McKenzie Sederberg with Langlie, and Rebecca Voltin with Taylor Hartje — permitted few strong shots on net, and their standout goaltender Maddie Rooney stopped 21 of 22 shots.
“The girls were very excited, probably a little too excited. We definitely had some nerves going,” said Andover coach Melissa Sailor. “But we were able to settle down and get a couple goals.”
About the Elks, Sailor said, “The biggest thing about Elk River is, they play a physical game, but we just have to worry about ourselves and playing with high energy.”
Andover beat the Elks 5-2 on Dec. 7 but tied them 0-0 on Feb. 1, an outcome Langlie described as “a test, a challenge,” for her team, who were up for it. “We came out here and played our hearts out.”
The Elks (14-9-5) managed just three goals in three games against Andover this season.
“We knew going in they’ve got a good goaltender,” said Elk coach Joe Heasley. “She is tough. But we didn’t get enough shots on net, either. We fired the puck toward net but we missed, and didn’t get enough on net to get some rebounds.”
Lexi Turpin, a sophomore, delivered the first goal at 14:50 of the first period, after taking a pass by Jordan Olsen from behind the net and firing the puck past Michaela Gould.
“Jordan saw wide open in front of the net and passed to me and I shot, and, it was so amazing. So exciting,” said Turpin about her third goal of the season. “It went right under her (Gould’s) glove and above her pad.”
The first four penalties of the game were against the Elks, and Andover capitalized on the third of those with Abbie Turpin scoring on the rebound of a teammate’s slap shot, at 10:41 of the second period.
Down 2-0, the Elks finally went on a power play of their own and Abbie Canton got them on the board with a tap-in just inside the post from a couple feet away on a scramble at the net.
That one got past Rooney but she stopped three close-range shots by the Elks late in the period, by Canton a 2-on-1 break, by Drea Westgaard and by Breanna Simon.
In the third period, the Andover defenders effectively defused most Elk advances as the Huskies held their lead and got the clincher with 24 seconds left when Goodin let fly from the blue line for the empty-netter.
Bruce Strand is at email@example.com