November 17, 2011 at 8:50 a.m.
After an upset in last year's section championship denied them a second straight appearance in the state tournament, the Wildcat girls' hockey team was chomping at the bit to get back on the ice. They returned to the ice with a flourish, dominating the first period and getting all four goals from their top line as they beat the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets 4-2 in the season opener this past Tuesday, November 15 at Chisago Lakes Arena.
The Wildcats outshot the Bluejackets 16-4 in the first period. They scored the only goal of the period on a power play at the 6:30 mark. Senior center Magan Lushanko put the puck on the stick of senior defenseman Miranda Beimert in the lower left slot. Beimert's shot rebounded to the left. Lushanko pounced on the rebound and one-timed it into the left side of the net to put the Wildcats up 1-0.
At the beginning of the second period, the Wildcats experienced several bad line changes in a row, allowing Cambridge some wide open ice. The Bluejackets failed to take advantage of their first three opportunities, but the fourth time was the charm. A Bluejacket player had the puck behind the net as all five Wildcats skated off for a change. The Bluejacket fired the puck to the far side of center ice and two of her teammates started a two-on-none break. Senior defenseman Anna Petersen raced into the play from the side to make it a two-on-one, but Cambridge made a pass across the slot and beat Wildcat goalie Jamie Dobosenski to tie the game at 1-1 at 3:36.
The Wildcats re-took the lead midway through the period. From deep in the Wildcat zone, senior defenseman Ashlee Ricci passed the puck ahead to senior wing Katie Johnson on the just outside of the Wildcat blue line on the right. Turning, Johnson immediately passed the puck ahead toward Lushanko, breaking free down the center of the ice. Lefty Lushanko faked right, moved the puck to her forehand and flipped it into the left side of the net to put the Wildcats up 2-1. Dobosenski made a nice save on a quick shot from a faceoff with five minutes left in the period to preserve the Wildcat lead. The key goal of the game came with 37 seconds left in the second period. Skating on a power play, the Wildcats controlled the puck in the Bluejacket zone. Lushanko moved the puck to sophomore wing Allison Borgstrom in the middle of the left circle. Borgstrom passed it to Johnson in the middle of the high slot. Johnson blasted a slapshot past the goalie's head and into the upper corner of the Bluejacket net to push the Wildcat lead to 3-1.
Any thoughts Cambridge had of coming back took a hit as the Wildcats scored again just over 30 seconds into the third period. Allison Borgstrom picked off a pass on the inside edge of the left circle deep in the Bluejacket zone and fired a shot over the goalie's shoulder into the upper left shelf to give the Wildcats a 4-1 lead. Midway through the period, the Bluejackets scored on a tip-in to cut the lead to 4-2. At the 11:24 mark, Allison Borgstrom was tripped from behind on a breakaway and should have been awarded a penalty shot, but the referees merely called a tripping penalty. Dobosenski made another big save after the Wildcat power play ended, and that was the end of the drama for the night as the Wildcats shut down the Bluejackets the rest of the way to come away with the win.
The opener featured the return of senior forward Marisa Peterson to the ice. Peterson, a key figure in the Wildcats' run to the state tournament two years ago, missed all of last season with a knee injury. Looking fully recovered from her involuntary year off, Peterson teamed with fellow senior Laura Monson and sophomore Rehanna Duncan to provide the Wildcats with hard-working, energetic play in the opener.
After the first period, the Bluejackets outshot the Wildcats 19-13. Dobosenski stopped 21 of the 23 shots she faced.
It looked like the Wildcats had a few opening night jitters, but head coach Jason Mahlen was pleased with their overall play. "Our penalty kill did really well," he said, "and our power play was two for four. "It was nice to have players like Delaney Doriott, Allison Ives and Rehanna Duncan step in to kill penalties for us. Their unit did a good job and enabled us to rest our top penalty-killing unit a little more. Jamie looked a little nervous in the nets in the first period, but played very well in the second and third periods. I liked the way our line of Lushanko, Johnson and Borgstrom moved the puck well in the neutral zone and created scoring opportunities in the Cambridge zone.
"Our players are in good shape overall, but being in game shape is different. Part of being in game shape is managing emotions and it was nice to get that part of it straightened around by the end of the game tonight. Getting that first game under your belt and coming out with a win is huge."
The seventh-ranked Wildcats play the second-ranked team in the state, Breck, tomorrow night at Anderson Ice Arena. They head up to Cloquet nest Tuesday, November 22 to take on C-E-C at 7:30 p.m.