Apple Valley girls 7-1-1 in last 9 games
The regular season still has a couple of weeks to run, but for Apple Valley girls hockey coach Don Erdall, there’s no ignoring the elephant in the room.
And that’s the opportunity within the Eagles’ reach when they start the Section 3AA playoffs in February. Going into this week’s play, Apple Valley (12-5-1) had the best record in the section and was one of only two teams above .500. The other is Rosemount, which is 10-8 and plays Apple Valley at home at 5 p.m. Saturday. The wide-open section appears to give Apple Valley one of its best chances to reach the state tournament since its last trip 20 years ago.
Erdall said he hopes that knowledge will drive the Eagles to sharpen their game in the final weeks of the regular season.
“(The players) will tell you I don’t hide it from them,” Erdall said. “They have the power of the internet, so there’s no use in not talking about it.
“When we want to accomplish the things we’re capable of, we’re going to talk about it. Sometimes that’s a double-edged sword because their expectations are so high that they think they can just show up at times. They’re learning that you actually have to work harder because there’s a bullseye on your back.”
The Eagles are 7-1-1 in their last nine games, including victories over Prior Lake (6-3) and Mankato East (3-1) last week, along with a 5-5 tie against Eastview. They’re third in the South Suburban Conference at 7-4-1 but will need a finishing kick to catch Lakeville North and Lakeville South, both of which are 11-1 in the league.
“This is a good time to clean some stuff up,” Erdall said. “We’re still inconsistent and we’re still learning how to win. But they’re playing well and buying in. When we can get all 15 kids going, we’re a good team.”
The Eagles can be explosive, averaging more than 4.5 goals a game. Eleven players have goals and six have at least 10 points. The Moran sisters – Marie, a senior and Makayla, a sophomore – are driving the offense. Marie, a St. Cloud State recruit, used to skate on the same line as her sister but now plays primarily defense so she can be on the ice more. That hasn’t stopped her from being a prolific scorer with 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) through 18 games, including a team-high five power-play goals.
Makayla is one of the leading scorers in Class AA with 39 goals and 17 assists for 47 points. Oddly enough, she has only one power-play goal. But she also has seven game-winners.
Marie scored twice in the Eagles’ victory over Prior Lake on Jan. 11, while Makayla had one goal and three assists. Avery Ryan, Mazy Ryan and Faith Dougan also scored for the Eagles. Apple Valley goalie Eleanor Carlson made 25 saves.
Erdall said there’s no denying the Moran sisters’ chemistry on the ice, but added their chemistry with teammates is pretty strong, too. Some days, he will have the Moran sisters together as much as possible and other games, Erdall said, it’s better to split them up.
“We’re a lot more than just two players and when everybody is flying and playing their roles, it’s fun to watch,” the coach said.
Makayla Moran had two goals and two assists in Apple Valley’s tie with Eastview on Jan. 14 at Apple Valley Sports Arena. Marie Moran had a goal and assist, and Molly Hentges and Dougan also scored.
Erin Hayward had two goals and one assist for Eastview, which is 3-15-1 overall but can’t be counted out in the Section 3AA playoffs. The Lightning’s last two South Suburban Conference games were a victory over league co-leader Lakeville North and the tie with Apple Valley.
Apple Valley lost to Simley 4-2 in a non-conference game Tuesday and returns to SSC action Thursday against Metro-South in a 7 p.m. faceoff at Drake Arena on the St. Paul Academy campus.