With three wins in their first five games, the North Wright County girls’ hockey team appears to be doing pretty well, especially for a squad that’s learning to play together on the fly.
The squad, made up of girls from St. Michael-Albertville, Monticello and Annandale, came to the 2014-2015 campaign with a core of returning players – Kayla Finnerty and Marina Chapman on defense, Rachel King up front – and a slew of young talent. Putting that together will be coach Jason Johnson’s main task, while playing in one of the most wide-open sections in the State of Hockey.
“We’re still figuring some things out. Some girls are stepping into roles that are bigger than anything they’ve done before at the varsity level, so even those girls that experienced with the team aren’t necessarily that experienced at this point. It’s going to be a learning process, but we’ve had some success right from the start, which is good,” Johnson said.
The Hawks’ first line is leading the way, and King in particular, with a couple of solid scoring nights on the board already. Lindsay Finnerty, who leads the squad in assists, is also part of that top line, with Kayla playing defense.
“What’s going to happen is building some depth behind that first line. And we’ve moved some people around to see if we can get more from those second and third lines,” Johnson said.
Against Cambridge last week, the RiverHawks were clicking on all cylinders, putting in eight goals to skate away with an all-important conference victory. Unlike the boys’ program, which starts the season with a couple of conference games and then dives into a non-conference schedule, the girls are skating against conference and Section 8AA opponents out of the gate, which makes winning early important.
“That’s one of the hard parts about it is you have to compete and get some of those wins in the early part of the season, otherwise you’re going to get left behind. But we feel like anyone really has a shot at the section this season, and that’s kind of the case most years. Someone will kind of separate themselves, which is what Roseau has the potential to do, but if we can play our best hockey in February, we can get to that section tournament and anything can happen. We’ve seen that firsthand a couple of times,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the few sections in the state that can say that every year.”
The Hawks will skate against St. Cloud tonight at Moose Sherritt Arena in Monticello, but it’s a Dec. 2 tilt, after the Thanksgiving break, that looms large. It’s the first of three possible meetings against the Buffalo Bison, also at the Moose. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
“It’s one of those early ones you want to get. They’re a great rival, and it’s usually just a fantastic hockey game, so we’re looking forward to that one, for sure.” Johnson said.