Drown sends Alex girls to state with OT winnerThe Alexandria girls' hockey team is heading back to the state tournament after a 2-1 overtime win over Fergus Falls in the section finals.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The Fergus Falls girls' hockey team was 13 minutes away from pulling off a big upset in the section finals in Detroit Lakes on Friday night.
Instead, the Otters will have to settle for giving Alexandria the biggest scare of its season. There is likely little comfort in that for a Fergus Falls team that played well but had to watch as the Cardinals celebrated the 6A title with a 2-1 overtime win that will send them back to the state tournament next week.
The Otters used a first-period goal to carry a 1-0 lead into the third period. That's when Alexandria's senior co-captain Shelby Iverson finally relieved some of the tension for her team by tapping in a rebound goal with almost 12 minutes left.
Melissa Drown proved to be the hero once they got to the extra session. The junior forward tapped in a rebound just 2:05 into overtime before her teammates tackled her on the ice to celebrate a return to St. Paul.
"It's hard to really understand at the moment what it really means," Drown said. "Then I turn around and see my teammates and they're all cheering, they're all piling together and it's, 'Wow, this is huge. This is it.' "
Alexandria won both of the regular-season contests between these two teams by a 3-0 score, but the Otters scored first on Friday with a little bit of help from Alexandria. The Cardinals got caught out of position while making a line change, and Stephanie Kolstad took advantage of it.
She got out on a breakaway and worked her way just to the left of the crease before releasing a wrister past Alexandria's Amy Jost in net. Fergus Falls continued to apply some pressure as they went into the first intermission with a lead after having outshot Alexandria 8-5.
"We didn't have the best first period," Alexandria senior co-captain Shanee Herd said. "But we went into the locker room and said, 'That's OK' and we went out a did it. [Fergus Falls] was awesome. That's the best we have seen them."
The Cardinals upped their energy in the second period. They put together some strong rushes at the net, but didn't have anything to show for it after a few nice stops by senior goaltender Jordie Salwei.
Finally, Alexandria's pressure paid off in the final frame. Iverson had been attacking the net all night and been left frustrated after coming up empty on some quality looks. She never let that affect her energy on the ice. She was ultimately rewarded for that with a tap-in goal that sent her team into a frenzy.
"I literally was tingling instantly when I got the goal," Iverson said. "I just knew that we still had it in us, and I can't even explain how I feel right now. I'm just so happy that we're going back [to state]. It's been such an amazing year. All these girls are amazing, and we just couldn't have done it without everyone putting in the effort."
Both teams had a couple more quality looks at the net during regulation but couldn't convert. Jost did a good job of limiting her rebounds and not giving the Otters many opportunities in front of the net. She got the win by finishing with 16 saves.
The Cardinals were pushed harder than many might have expected. But in the end, they simply weren't going to go down without a fight.
"It was so important," Herd said. "We just told them, 'Give it all you've got. This is our last chance to play as this team together, and we want to go out and do it.' The younger girls stepped up and the seniors stepped up."
The end result is the third state-tournament appearance in the last four years for this program. Alexandria and the rest of the Class A field will kick things off at the Xcel Energy Center next Wednesday. The tournament runs from February 20-23. Seedings and pairings will be announced on Saturday. After missing out on the fun a year ago, Alexandria is excited to get back under the bright lights of the Xcel Energy Center.
"It definitely stung last year," Drown said. "We definitely wanted to kind of get payback for that. First round, playing Detroit Lakes, we knocked them off. Then coming here tonight, it was huge for us. We're all really excited. We've been working for this all season long."