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Alexandria's senior co-captain Shanee Herd (front) led her team's celebration back toward the bench after Shelby Iverson tied the game at one apiece with a goal in the third period last Friday. That goal allowed the Cardinals to breathe a little easier after the upset-minded Otters played most of the night with a lead. (Eric Morken, Echo Press)

Alexandria girls' hockey: A date with state

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WHAT

State Class A girls' hockey tournament

Alexandria vs. Red Wing

WHEN

Today, Wednesday, February 20, 11 a.m.

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WHERE

Xcel Energy Center

The Alexandria girls' hockey team survived a scare from an underdog Fergus Falls team to secure its spot in the state tournament last Friday.

Now the Cardinals will play the same role that the Otters played as they try to pull off an upset or two in St. Paul this week. Alexandria will get that opportunity right off the bat as they open up the Class A tournament against a 25-2 Red Wing team today, Wednesday.

"We're all going in excited," junior forward Melissa Drown said after Alexandria's 2-1 overtime win over Fergus Falls in Detroit Lakes. "All those teams down there, they think we're nothing. They come in expecting to beat us, and if we can bring some momentum from this game and our whole season, we had a great year, we could really make some things happen."

Drown is a big reason Alexandria has this opportunity after she scored the game winner in overtime against the Otters. She crashed the net and put in a rebound goal just 2:05 into the extra session before her teammates tackled her to the ice to celebrate another trip to state.

The desire to get back to St. Paul was at an all-time high for this group after coming up short in the section finals a year ago. Perhaps that's why they came out a little nervous in the opening period against a team that they had beaten twice during the regular season by a combined score of 6-0.

The Otters played like they had nothing to lose as they took a 1-0 lead into the third period. They scored midway through the first period when Stephanie Kolstad found herself wide open on a breakaway after the Cardinals got caught making a line change. Kolstad took advantage of the opportunity, sending a wrister past freshman Amy Jost to get her team off to the best start they could have hoped for.

"It didn't take us by surprise," Drown said. "We were expecting them to come out hard, but we knew it was going to be that much more difficult to come back because they were going to keep believing. We needed to take that away from them and come out and show them that we are the number-one seeded team like we knew we were."

That's the attitude that the Cardinals started to play with in the second period. They made life more difficult for the Otters' Jordie Salwei in net, but Salwei continued to be up to the challenge. She frustrated Alexandria through the first two periods as the Cardinals went into the second intermission with nothing to show for their 17 shots.

"In between periods, I said, 'You know what, we've been down one before and we've came back and won by one, so let's go out and do it,' " senior co-captain Shanee Herd said. "Everyone was fired up, and we ran out and we were ready to go in the third period, and it really showed."

It was Alexandria's other senior captain that allowed her team to take a sigh of relief with a third-period goal. Shelby Iverson had been attacking the net all night and been turned aside on some nice saves from Salwei. Finally, Iverson's ability to get around the crease paid off when she tapped in a rebound goal with 12:28 left in regulation.

"After we were controlling it in the second period, we were like, 'OK, we have this. We can do it,' " Iverson said. "We didn't get down, and we kept positive and pulled through."

That upped the intensity even further through the rest of regulation. Both teams had a couple scoring chances that drew groans from the crowd after they came up short. Once they got to overtime, it didn't take long for the Cardinals' pressure to pay off with the biggest goal of Drown's career thus far.

"All I saw was the ref put his arm down because I couldn't see the back of the net," Herd said. "I just screamed. I didn't even know what was going on. I was just on cloud nine."

That goal will send Alexandria to the state tournament for the third time in the last four years. The Cardinals are 1-4 in their last two trips to the Twin Cities, since winning the Class A title in 2008.

Alexandria will take a 19-6-2 record into the Xcel Energy Center today, Wednesday, when the Cardinals and Wingers drop the puck at 11 a.m. Alexandria has won 13 of its last 14 games but knows it will still be the underdogs against a Red Wing team ranked third in the latest Class A polls.

The Cardinals are used to playing as the favorites of the Section 6A field. Now they will head to St. Paul with a chip on their shoulder hoping to prove that they can keep up with the perennial powers like Warroad, Red Wing and Blake.

"Hopefully we can just go out there and play like we've been playing all year," Iverson said. "We know that we can play with any team. We're as good as any team, and if we believe that we are, I think [top-ranked] Warroad better watch out because we're coming for them."

GAME SUMMARY

FERGUS FALLS 1 0 0 0 - 1

ALEXANDRIA 0 0 1 1 - 2

Scoring

FIRST PERIOD - Fergus Falls - Kolstad (Abby Moxness), 10:12

SECOND PERIOD - No scoring

THIRD PERIOD - Alexandria - Iverson (Becca Illies), 12:28

OVERTIME - Alexandria - Drown (Lauren Niska), 5:55

GOALTENDING - Fergus Falls - Salwei - L, 29 saves, 31 shots; Alexandria - Jost - W, 16 saves, 17 shots

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Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
(320) 763-1229
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