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Alexandria's Lauren Niska (21) brought the puck up the ice in the second period during the Cardinals' opening round game against Red Wing in the State Class A girls' hockey tournament Wednesday. The Cardinals fell to the Wingers 6-2. They then played yesterday, Thursday, at 10 a.m. in the consolation bracket. (Eric Morken, Echo Press)
Alexandria's Lauren Niska (21) brought the puck up the ice in the second period during the Cardinals' opening round game against Red Wing in the State Class A girls' hockey tournament Wednesday. The Cardinals fell to the Wingers 6-2. They then played yesterday, Thursday, at 10 a.m. in the consolation bracket. (Eric Morken, Echo Press)

State girls' hockey: Red Wing topples Alexandria

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Cardinals Alexandria, 56308

Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Alexandria girls' hockey coach Andy Shriver said his team started preparing for an explosive Red Wing offense a month before he even knew if the Cardinals would play them in the state tournament.

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That's the kind of preparation he knew it would take to slow down a Wingers team that came into Wednesday's quarterfinal game against Alexandria averaging 6.1 goals per game. Turns out not even that was enough time to figure out a way to contain Red Wing's junior forward Nicole Schammel.

Shriver gave the star forward all the credit for that after she scored four goals and led her team to a 6-2 win over the Cardinals at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday. Three of Schammel's goals came in the first period as she recorded the hat trick in a span of four minutes, 15 seconds to turn a tie game into a 4-1 Red Wing lead at the first intermission. Her four goals gave her 124 points and 73 goals on the season.

"There are certain players that you have to neutralize and the leading scorer in the state is a good place to start," Shriver said. "We walked in after she scored three in the first period and we looked at each other and said, 'Well, it's working.' And it absolutely was. What a phenomenal player. The windows that she got were on a line change when our shadows that were assigned to her a month ago were in between shifts. We lost track of her for a couple seconds, and literally, she found the puck and she found the net and scored."

Alexandria didn't go down without a fight when it looked like the Cardinals could do that early on. They fell behind 1-0 just 15 seconds in but didn't panic. Sophomore Nicole Bartels gathered herself and went top shelf on a wrister that tied the game at one apiece just 4:29 into the game.

The Cardinals showed some character by being the more aggressive team in the second period. Lauren Niska set the tone for that early as she attacked the net and set up a goal that was originally credited to her but later given to senior captain Shelby Iverson. That made it a 4-2 game and gave Alexandria some life.

The Cardinals continued to force the issue. They just missed on a couple shots that trickled past the post before Schammel took the momentum back for her team with a goal at 10:09 in the middle frame.

"Give them a ton of credit," Red Wing head coach Scott Haley said. "I thought they were a pretty solid club. You look at the shots, it was pretty balanced. It's kind of been the story for us the whole year. We'll win games by four, five goals and actually have a shot differential that's not that much...I was really excited about playing Alexandria because I really felt they were going to give us a quality game."

Shriver and Schammel both echoed those sentiments on the kind of energy the Cardinals brought to the ice. They outshot Red Wing 14-11 in the second period and had just five fewer shots (32-27) in the game.

"I think that this win, yeah, it was 6-2, but I felt like we were actually tested in the game," Schammel said. "I didn't really feel that comfortable throughout the game, and I felt like Alexandria put up a really good fight."

Freshman goaltender Amy Jost experienced her first start in a state tournament. She turned aside 26 shots, while Red Wing's Ashley Corcoran got the win with 25 saves.

The loss dropped Alexandria to the consolation bracket at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. The Cardinals played at 10 a.m. yesterday. Visit www.echopress.com for details on that game or see next Wednesday's issue of the Echo Press for a full recap on Alexandria's state tournament run.

RED WING 6,

ALEXANDRIA 2

ALEXANDRIA - 1 1 0 - 2

RED WING - 4 2 0 - 6

FIRST PERIOD - Red Wing - Reagan Haley (Emily Stegora), 0:15; Alexandria - Bartels (Kaila DeWanz), 4:29; Red Wing - Schammel (Stegora), 11:18; Red Wing - Schammel (Reagan)13:54; Red Wing - Schammel (unassisted), 15:33

SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Iverson (Niska), 1:23; Red Wing - Schammel (unassisted), 10:09; Red Wing - Stegora (unassisted), 16:07

THIRD PERIOD - No scoring

GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jost - L, 26 saves, 32 shots; Red Wing - Corcoran - W, 25 saves, 27 shots

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