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Girls hockey: Alexandria wins penalty-riddled playoff opener to set up third game with Brainerd-Little Falls

A total of 19 penalties slowed down the game, but the Cardinals dominated the puck in a 3-0 win over Buffalo-Maple Lake to advance to the 8AA semifinals.

Alexandria girls hockey
The Alexandria girls hockey team celebrates a first-period goal from freshman forward Kennedy Ellingson, 3, during the Cardinals' Section 8AA quarterfinal game against Buffalo-Maple Lake on Feb. 12, 2022. The Cardinals won the game 3-0 to move on to the semifinals on Tuesday night at 7 where they will host third-seeded Brainerd-Little Falls.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Playoff games are about surviving and advancing, and that’s what the Alexandria girls hockey team did in the Section 8AA quarterfinals on Saturday night.

The second-seeded Cardinals (14-10-1) locked up in a penalty-filled playoff opener against seventh-seeded Buffalo-Maple Lake (5-19-2). A total of 19 penalties were called, eight on Buffalo and 11 on Alexandria.

The Cardinals still outshot the Bison 48-20. Many of those came in the opening period when they held a 27-5 shot advantage, but a first-period goal from freshman Kennedy Ellingson was all the Cardinals had to show for it through two frames. The Cardinals added two more in the third to move on with a 3-0 win.

Alexandria will host third-seeded Brainerd-Little Falls on Tuesday night in the section semifinals. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

Kennedy Ellingson
Alexandria's Kennedy Ellingson celebrates with her teammates on the bench after her first-period goal against Buffalo-Maple Lake on Feb. 12, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“We dominated the first period,” Alexandria head coach Molly Arola said. “I don’t think we’ve put up 27 shots in one period, let alone the first period before. It was just one of those games where things were going to get called. It is what it is. It was a crazy, chaotic, messy game, but we played well through it all. That’s what we’re really proud of with these girls is they fought through all that stuff and found a way to win.”

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Alexandria got the insurance goal it was looking for less than two minutes into the third period. Buffalo’s senior goaltender Maddie Mootz came out of the net to try to clear the puck. She misplayed it with Alexandria junior Ella Westlund rushing the net aggressively.

When the puck bounced off Mootz’s stick and got behind her, Westlund was there to bury an open-net opportunity. Kylie Lattimer and Peyton Boesl were awarded assists on the play as the Cardinals got the 2-0 lead.

“That was huge,” Arola said. “That was what we needed just to give us a little bit of relief. We were just peppering and peppering and finally to get one through again. That was a really nice play by Westy, and our defense, I think it was Kylie Lattimer, put it up the boards for her to skate and hunt it down. That was a great play.”

Hanley Block
Alexandria senior forward Hanley Block wins a race to a loose puck in front of Buffalo-Maple Lake's Annika Englund on Feb. 12, 2022 during the Section 8AA quarterfinals.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Bison’s best shot at scoring might have been midway through the first period on an Alexandria power play.

Junior forward Raegan Wurm knocked a puck out of midair with her stick deep in Alexandria's defensive zone to create a turnover. Wurm gathered the puck and had an immediate offensive chance, but Cardinals’ senior goaltender Hailee Bailey made the save to keep it a scoreless game.

“It was a big save, and she had a big save in the middle of the third,” Arola said. “She did what she needed to do, and I thought our defensive zone was better than what is has been lately. That was good. There’s still some things we have to clean up, but for the most part, we didn’t give them too many quality scoring chances.”

Hailee Bailey
Alexandria senior goaltender Hailee Bailey pushes aside the puck during the first period of a playoff game against Buffalo-Maple Lake on Feb. 12, 2022. Bailey earned a 20-save shutout in the 3-0 win for the Cardinals.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Bailey had the 20-save shutout, and she had to be good because Mootz was on her game for the Bison. Mootz was getting pressured in front of the net all night, but she stopped 36 shots through two periods and finished with 45 saves in the game.

“We definitely came out buzzing right away, and we kind of let them come back a little bit as the game progressed,” Bailey said. “But their goalie played great. Otherwise, I think the score would have been a lot different. She’s a big goalie, so she covers up a lot of the net. She definitely helped her team keep it close.”

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Kennedy Ellingson’s first-period goal came on a scrum in front of the net after a puck got loose near the crease as Mootz found herself out of position. Ellingson hopped on a chance at an open net as she poked it in for a big goal after the Cardinals had come up empty on multiple chances to that point. Assists went to seniors Lauren Rebrovich and Riley Nyberg.

Getting shots on goal and bodies in front of the net was the game plan all night for Alexandria. It eventually paid off again when freshman Julia Doherty shot home a rebound through traffic to make it a three-goal game with less than two minutes left.

The Cardinals are now eager to turn their attention to Brainerd-Little Falls (15-11).

“They’re a gritty team,” Bailey said of the Flying Warriors. “They always go hard to the puck and pick up our sticks, so we just need to do that, along with just getting shots. I think we outshot them like 40-30 last time and only put up two goals, so we just need to keep putting up shots and making sure they’re quality.”

The Cardinals will try to beat Brainerd-Little Falls for the third time this season. The Flying Warriors beat Sartell-Sauk Rapids (6-18-2) 2-1 in their quarterfinal game on Saturday.

The Cardinals beat the Flying Warriors 5-1 on Jan. 11 and 2-1 in overtime on Jan. 31.

Brainerd-Little Falls has won three straight games since that last loss to Alexandria with shutout wins over St. Cloud (14-10-2) and Fergus Falls (18-5-2) in the last two games of the regular season.

“We have to keep getting pucks and bodies to the net,” Arola said. “We got to make sure we play defense first before we think about offense, and just keep working together. We can be a very dangerous team when we work together and use each other. It’s going to be another dogfight with them. We need to come ready. It’s playoff hockey.”

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Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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