Red Wing ends Packers’ late-season surge


The South St. Paul Packers lined up to take the ice at the Xcel Center in St. Paul for the start of the Class A Girls Hockey Tournament Feb. 20. (submitted photo)

South St. Paul Packers’ Lauren Wilcox takes a slap shot during the team’s opening game of the state tournament Feb. 20. (submitted photo)

The South St. Paul High School girls hockey team closed out its season last Saturday with a 3-2 loss to Red Wing in the Class A state tournament third-place game. Although they weren’t able to win their final game, the Packers achieved plenty this season.

At the midpoint of the season, South St. Paul’s record was below .500 but got a jumpstart in the consolation bracket of the Kaposia Classic holiday tournament.

“It was at Christmas time that we turned things around,” said South St. Paul head coach Dave Palmquist.

After losing in the first round of the holiday event, the Packers kicked off a nine-game winning streak with a 4-0 win over Blake, which would go on to win the state championship. South St. Paul also beat perennial girls hockey powers Roseville and Hill-Murray during the streak.

“This year’s team made a lot of strides,” said Palmquist. “We beat Blake, Roseville and Hill-Murray and the kids really started to believe that we could make a strong run.”

Heading into the section playoffs, South St. Paul had won 11 of its final 12 regular-season games. The Packers then knocked off Mahtomedi and Totino-Grace to reach the state tournament.

Third-place game

After falling to Warroad in the semifinals, South St. Paul had an early wake-up call to get ready for Red Wing in the third-place game. The Wingers scored the first three goals of the game, which started at 9 a.m., and weathered the Packers’ comeback attempt.

Red Wing opened the scoring three minutes into the game and tallied its second goal early in the second period. The Wingers made it 3-0 at 7:19 of the second period.

South St. Paul began to climb back into the game at 9:59 of the second period on a goal by Wilcox off an assist from Abby Palmquist. The Packers drew within a goal at 8:20 of the third period on Riley Viner’s power-play goal. Anna Barlow and Palmquist added assists.

In goal, South St. Paulís Sydney Conley made 28 saves while Red Wing’s Ashley Corcoran stopped 31 shots, including 16 in the third period.

Senior Lauren Wilcox was named to the Class A all-tournament team.

“I was so proud of the girls and am going to miss our three seniors Asia Owens, Riley Viner and Lauren Wilcox,” said Dave Palmquist.

Viner and Wilcox ended their careers having played in four state tournaments.

Semifinals

The penalty kill was a big factor in South St. Paul’s upset victory over Warroad in the state semifinals a year ago. Special teams also played a part in last Friday’s meeting between the Class A girls hockey state powers.  

Warroad scored twice with the man-advantage en route to a 4-1 victory over South St. Paul in the second Class A state semifinal at Xcel Energy Center.  

“Today for 51 minutes it was a 1-1 game five on five,” said Dave Palmquist. “You’ve got to take advantage of your power plays and Warroad did so all the credit to them.”

The Warriors scored their first two goals on the power play to jump out to a 2-0 lead early in the second period.  

“I thought our killers did awesome, great positioning and a lot of blocked shots,” Dave Palmquist said. “When you’ve got the power play, they throw things at the net and they outnumbered us a few times and that’s the difference.”

In last year’s state semifinal, South St. Paul killed off all six of its penalties without giving up a goal.

Neither team appeared willing in the first period to take chances that might provide an opening for the other. Quality scoring chances were few and the only goal of the first didn’t come about until the final minute. Warroad broke the scoreless tie on Lisa Marvin’s power-play goal with 34.6 seconds showing on the clock.  

Things opened up a bit more in the second period, at least for Warroad. The Warriors peppered South St. Paul netminder Sydney Conley with 15 shots and added to its lead thanks to another South St. Paul penalty. Kayla Gardner took a long rebound of a shot by Demi Gardner and beat Conley at 4:59 to make it 2-0.

South St. Paul got on the board three minutes later thanks to a forecheck that resulted in the Packers’ first three shots on goal of the second period. Anna Barlow picked off a clearing attempt at the blue line and sent a slap shot on goal, Hannah Hoven chipped the rebound back on net and Viner knocked that rebound past Warroad netminder Dayton Hilgert.  

Despite trailing heading into the third period, the Packers felt they were in good position to pull out the victory.

“I really thought we could do this,” Viner said. “Our team was working so hard and we were doing so well in the first and second period. It just didn’t go our way.”

Warroad continued to bottle up South St. Paul in the third period while adding a crucial insurance goal at the same time. Marvin found Sierra Hanowski breaking into the Packers’ zone and fed her a backhand pass. Hanowski then beat Conley, who came out to cut down the angle but couldn’t corral the shot.  

The Warriors then drove home the dagger on Kayla Gardner’s empty-net goal with 1:21 left in the third.

This was the third consecutive year that South St. Paul and Warroad squared off in the state tournament. Two years ago, the Warriors beat the Packers 5-1 in the championship game. The Packers returned the favor last year by knocking off Warroad 4-2 in the semifinals before falling to Breck in the championship game.

Quarterfinals

South St. Paul reached the semifinals by shutting out fifth-seeded Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

The Packers broke a scoreless tie on Brigette Miller’s goal 2:37 into the third. Miller was also the hero for South St. Paul in the section final last week when she scored the game-winning goal in double overtime against Totino-Grace.

South St. Paul added to its lead against Hibbing on Viner’s goal at 8:12 of the third and capped the scoring on Palmquist’s power-play tally with 2:14 left.

Viner added two assists for a three-point game and Wilcox also had a multiple-point effort with two assists.

In goal, Conley made 11 saves for the shutout. Hibbing’s Amanda Klennert made 13 saves before being pulled after giving up South St. Paul’s third goal. Backup Megan Frider played the final 2:14 but did not face any shots.

The win over Hibbing avenged an earlier loss to the Bluejackets for the Packers. Hibbing beat South St. Paul 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the Kaposia Classic holiday tournament back on Dec. 29. Following the loss, South St. Paul won 11 of its final 12 regular-season games and then beat Mahtomedi and Totino-Grace in the Section 4A playoffs to reach its record 13th state tournament.

 


 

Class A girls hockey state tournament

Quarterfinals
•Red Wing 6, Alexandria 2
• Blake 5, Mound Westonka 2
• Warroad 9, New Ulm 0
• South St. Paul 3, Hibbing/Chisholm 0

Semifinals
• Blake 6, Red Wing 3
• Warroad 4, South St. Paul 1

Consolation semifinals
• Mound Westonka 3, Alexandria 2
•Hibbing/Chisholm 2, New Ulm 1

Championship game
•Blake 7, Warroad 2

Third-place game
• Red Wing 3, South St. Paul 2

Consolation championship
• Hibbing/Chisholm 2, Mound Westonka 1

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