When the Lakeville North girls hockey team opened up the season with two straight losses, their chances at returning to the state tournament appeared bleak. Without some of their best players from 2013-2014 in seniors Dani Sadek, Alexis Joyce, Maddie McGlade and Heidi Winiecki, a state tournament appearance was considered a best case scenario.
But after their 3-0 shutout of crosstown rival Lakeville South, this is a team that has an outside shot to play in the state finals.
The Panthers haven’t been able to crack ninth in the Class 2A coaches poll, but with the level of play Lakeville North displayed in their final regular season game, they are getting hot at the right time and could ride this momentum deep into the state tournament.
Of course, they will most likely have to defeat Lakeville South once again in the section playoffs. But, if they play how they played tonight at Hasse Arena, they could easily be on their way to the state tournament in a week and a half.
Goaltender Abby Cooper led the charge with 26 saves on the night and a shutout of a team that averages 4.96 goals per game. Her stonewall goaltending makes it very difficult to score on the Panthers, but their defense makes it even harder. Led by University of North Dakota commit Taylor Flaherty, the Panther defense often suffocates the opposition.
If the defense continues to play at this level with splash plays from the offense, Lakeville North will be able to compete with any team in the state.
If the Panthers continue this momentum going into the postseason, don’t be surprised to see this team on championship Saturday in February.