One win away (w/video)
The Alexandria girls’ hockey team is in a familiar spot again tonight.
The Cardinals are the top seed in the Section 6A tournament and one game away from making their fourth state tournament in the last five years. Getting here with a 4-2 win over Detroit Lakes on Tuesday night wasn’t easy and Alexandria doesn’t expect the road to be easy at the MAC in St. Cloud tonight where Fergus Falls will try to pull off the upset with a trip to the Xcel Energy Center on the line.
“Every time you hit the ice from now on it could be our last game,” senior captain Melissa Drown said after scoring twice in the third period against the Lakers. “That’s something that the whole team and especially us seniors need to keep in our minds and in our hearts, that every time we hit that ice we have to be going as hard as we can.”
Drown said she and her teammates know they are going to get the opponent’s best shot every time out in the section tournament, and that’s what they got against the Lakers on Tuesday. Detroit Lakes played with a lead through much of the night after Randa Larsen scored on a breakaway just 2:06 into the game.
If the Lakers were going to pull off the upset, that was the start they needed. Junior goaltender Veronica Badurek then put a scare into the Cardinals with that early lead to work with as she stopped 26 shots through the first two periods. Alexandria peppered the net in the second frame, outshooting the Lakers 13-5, but still had nothing to show for their efforts at the final intermission.
“We started throwing the puck around, got a little nervous, played a little tentative,” head coach Blair Hovel said of the first two frames. That’s not how we can play. We got to play more physical. We got to play more aggressive and take away their opportunities. We did that in the third period.”
The Cardinals needed just one goal to get going. Drown delivered for her team as she won a race to the puck and got free for an open look on the left side of the crease. Drown buried her shot and all the momentum shifted squarely back to Alexandria.
“Obviously, coming into this game it’s do or die,” Drown said. “That was it. When that hit the back of the net I was like, ‘Here we go. That’s going to give us the momentum.’ We knew this goalie, as soon as we got one, we got two, she was going to collapse and that’s exactly what she did.”
Drown opened the floodgates for the Cardinals when she stepped in front of a Lakers’ pass near the blue line and scored less than two minutes after her first goal. Almost 40 seconds later, it was fellow senior Rachel Drew who scored on her own rebound before junior Kaila DeWanz added a fourth goal in a span of almost five minutes.
“I was not ready to be done,” Drew said. “It felt good to put one in the back of the net. It’s been a while. I’ve been struggling to score so this was good.”
Alexandria players admitted to being nervous heading into that final frame. Once that first puck found the back of the net, there was a sense within this team that there was no way Detroit Lakes was getting out of the RCC with a win.
“We were very scared and thinking we could come back, but it was hard,” DeWanz said. “We finally got the confidence to come back. [Once we scored] all the confidence came back.”
Where the Lakers couldn’t stop the bleeding after allowing their first goal, Alexandria’s Amy Jost did just the opposite. The sophomore goaltender had 18 saves in the game and kept her team in it until her offense got going in the third period.
“Part of playing that goalie position is being mentally prepared and staying focused,” Hovel said. “That’s what Amy kind of did. She let in that first shot, but it didn’t rattle her. She controlled her rebounds and played well after that.”
Now Alexandria hopes to put everything together one more time tonight in St. Cloud. These two teams know each other very well with the conference rivals playing twice during the regular season. The Cardinals beat Fergus Falls both those times, but both were decided by just two goals.
“They’ve got two strong defensemen that like to carry the puck up a lot,” Drown said. “I think as long as we play as a team and shut them down, but then also focusing on playing as hard as we can every shift. They don’t have the depth that we have. They’re going to be running two lines just like DL had. We have three lines, so I think just playing a smart, hard game is what’s going to get us the win on Friday.”
Tonight’s game is also a rematch of last year’s section title game that Alexandria won in overtime against the Otters. The Cardinals were the favorites going into that game and will be again tonight.
They have learned over the years what that means at playoff time. Alexandria gets every team’s best shot and the Cardinals expect nothing less from Fergus Falls when the two teams drop the puck at 7 p.m.
“We’ll definitely tell them that,” Hovel said. “We just have to go hard at them every period for 51 minutes. If we go hard for 51 minutes, we should walk out with a victory. It’s going to come down to who’s going to cash in on those few opportunities that you’re going to get.”
ALEXANDRIA 0 0 4 – 4
DETROIT LAKES 1 0 1 – 2
SHOTS – Detroit Lakes – 7, 5, 8 – 20; Alexandria – 12, 13, 10 – 35
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Detroit Lakes – Larsen (Hailiegh Wenger)
SECOND PERIOD – No scoring
THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Drown (Lauren Niska), 8:09 left; Alexandria – Drown, unassisted, 6:12 left; Alexandria – Drew, unassisted, 5:34 left; Alexandria – DeWanz (Drown), 3:26 left; Detroit Lakes – Chandra Johnson, 0:17 left
GOALTENDING – Detroit Lakes – Badurek – L, 31 saves, 35 shots faced; Alexandria – Jost – W, 18 saves, 20 shots faced