Jumping right into fire at it opens the season, the Stillwater girls hockey team split nonconference games against two of the top teams in the state.

The fourth-ranked Ponies (1-1) held off sixth-ranked Hill-Murray for a 2-1 victory in the season opener and then followed with a 4-3 overtime setback against third-ranked Minnetonka on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center.

Stillwater jumped ahead of the Skippers 2-0 in the first period on goals by Josie Lang and Brooke Nelson. Minnetonka charged back while out-shooting the Ponies 23-4 in the second period, evening the score on goals by Grace Sadura and Josie Hemp.

Five of the six penalties assessed to Stillwater came in the second period.

“The second period the penalties came in and it takes the flow away from the game,” Ponies coach Mira Jalosuo said.

Stillwater was on the power play when Hemp scored her second goal of the game, a shorthanded tally at 10:44 to provide a 3-2 lead. But Sadura was called for one of her four minor penalties late in the third period and Josie St. Martin scored on the ensuing power play to pull Stillwater even at 3-all.

Moments after she was stopped on a breakaway, Sadura scored at 1:41 of the eight-minute overtime period to provide the game-winner.

Disappointed with the loss, Jalosuo said she was pleased with the team’s performance against the talent-laden Skippers (2-1), whose only loss was 1-0 against reigning state runner-up Andover.

“It was a huge improvement from Friday (against Hill-Murray),” Jalosuo said. “We were a completely different team against Minnetonka. We were very good in the first period and we were ready to play. They just have so much skill. On paper, nobody should be able to challenge them this year. They are stacked, but I’m very proud of our girls and how we played against them.”

Stillwater loaded up its schedule with games against teams ranked among the state’s top 10, including defending large-school state champion Edina, reigning Class A state champion Gentry Academy, Holy Family and Blake, among others.

“I really like our nonconference schedule,” Jalosuo said. “It is one of the strongest in the whole state, playing all of the top 10 teams from last year’s rankings so that should get us ready for the sections and hopefully the state tournament.”

The early signs have been positive, the coach added.

“I would say the biggest thing is that we can play with these top teams,” Jalosuo said. “We are still very young and it’s always a question mark with a young team and how you will compete against teams with a lot of seniors. I’m very pleased with how we’ve played thus far. Defensively they look more confident than they have in the past and offensively we have a lot of players who can score.”

Minnetonka 0 2 1 1 — 4

Stillwater 2 0 1 0 — 3

First period — 1. St, Josie Lang (Brooke Nelson) pp, 6:08; 2. St, Brooke Nelson (Kylie Ligday) 11:32.

Second period — 1. Min, Grace Sadura (Ava Lindsay, Bella Finnegan) 6:39; 2. Min, Josie Hemp (Lindzi Avar, Elly Klepinger) pp, 11:12.

Third period — 3. Min, Hemp (Lindsay) sh, 10:44; 3. St, Josie St. Martin (unassisted) pp, 15:58.

Overtime — 4. Min, Sadura (Lindsay) 1:41.

Penalties — Min, 9-18:00; St, 6-12:00.

Saves — Min (Sophia Johnson) 7-4-8-0—19; St (Lily Timmons) 10-21-11-1—43.

Stillwater 2, Hill-Murray 1

The Ponies opened their season with a 2-1 victory over Hill-Murray on Friday, Nov. 12 at the SCVRC.

It was a rematch of last year’s Section 4AA championship game, which the Ponies won 1-0 to earn their first trip to state in more than a decade.

The Pioneers (0-2) jumped in front 1-0 with a power play goal in the first period, but Stillwater answered for a 2-1 lead after goals by Brooke Nelson and Addy Finn in the second.

“It was awesome to have spectators in the stands,” Ponies coach Mira Jalosuo said. “That kind of made the girls a little nervous in the first period, but in the second period we were better.

“There was a direct correlation to penalties. We had four penalties in the first, one in the second, and four in the third. When you look at it, we dominated the second period, so there’s the answer. We have to stay out of the box.”

Lily Timmons made it stand up for the Ponies while making 23 of her 43 saves in the third period.

“Lily was on point that game,” Jalosuo said. “She was very good.”

Hill-Murray 1 0 0 — 1

Stillwater 0 2 0 — 2

First period — 1. H-M, Ella Hornung (Olivia Boyer, Ellah Hause) pp, 11:59.

Second period — 1. St, Brooke Nelson (Grace Cheney, Myah Krueger) 4:54; 2. St, Addy Finn (Avery Braunshausen, Josie Lang) 8:12.

Third period — No scoring.

Penalties — H-M, 4-8:00; St, 9-18:00.

Saves — H-M (Taylor Anderson) 5-16-9—30; St (Lily Timmons) 10-10-23—43.

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