Team will push to repeat successes in SEC, sections
The Forest Lake girls hockey team started last season on the wrong foot, dropping an 8-1 decision at Stillwater.
But the Rangers rebounded nicely, posting a 15-4-2 season record and just missing out on winning the Suburban East Conference with a 14-2-2 mark.
So when the team opened this year with a 6-0 home loss to Centennial on Tuesday, Nov. 16, coach Andy Richardson did not panic.
“It was Game 1 of 25 games,” he said. “The goal is to get better, so regardless if we had won or lost, we would have gone back to practice trying to work to get better. Centennial is ranked 10th in the state [in Class 2A], and I think it was good that we started against a tough team like that, because we realized we could play with them. We just need to find ways to score.”
While the Rangers are young – there are five freshmen and five more sophomores on the varsity roster – the team also has plenty of experienced players returning.
“We have 11 skaters who saw varsity minutes last year who are back,” Richardson said. “And we also return both goalies, so we return a bunch of experience.”
There were losses, to be sure. The biggest was defenseman Rachel Golnitz, who is skating for nationally ranked Colgate, as well as four other seniors.
But at forward Forest Lake brings back senior Jennarae Bateman, the top returning scorer from a season ago with nine goals, along with junior Malia McKinnon, a returning All-SEC performer who finished with seven goals, and senior Hannah Melander, who received honorable mention on the all-league team.
On defense the Rangers’ top returnees are senior Erin Brown and sophomore Sandy Pool, an experienced defensive pair from last season, while goalies Donelle Decker, a senior, and junior Adria Haley both saw extensive action last winter.
“Our goalies are going to be huge in every single game,” Richardson said. “That’s because I think we’re going to have to scrap to find a way to score goals. I think we’re going to play a lot of close games, so we’re going to have to find a way to put the puck in the net.”
So while Forest Lake’s second-year coach was not happy to open with a loss, it did not change his expectations for the coming season.
“I thought it was encouraging how we skated with them, and in the second period we really took it to them,” he said. “If we could have gotten a puck to bounce into the net, I think it may have been a different story for us. But that didn’t happen, so we’ll have to learn from that moving forward.”