The New Ulm Eagles girls hockey team breezed through the Section 3A playoffs, outscoring the competition 22-4. After destroying Fairmont 14-2 last Tuesday night, Feb. 14, they faced off against the Luverne Cardinals on Thursday for the conference championship. The Eagles easily handled the outclassed Cardinals, dismantling them 8-2. New Ulm scored four fast unanswered goals in the first period for a 4-0 lead. Brittany Denn, Vanessa Anderson, Sleepy Eye’s Lexie Weiss and Aimee Anderson, assisted by Erika Ries, found the net against Luverne goalie Kennedy Gonnerman, who was getting little help on defense. New Ulm clearly had better skaters and puck handlers and had a much deeper bench. All three lines were productive and excelled on defense as well. Luverne had a hard time getting out of the neutral zone and hardly challenged Eagle goalie Bailey Landreville, managing only four shots on goal. Late in the first period the Cardinals had a two player advantage, but the Eagles’ penalty kill was so good they never got a shot on goal.
The second period was more even with each team scoring once. Brook Schugel found the net for New Ulm with only a few minutes left in the period. In the third period New Ulm reasserted their dominance, outscoring Luverne 3-1 for the final 8-2 tally. Brook Schugel scored two for the hat trick and Sleepy Eye’s Erika Ries scored, assisted by Lexie Weiss. The Eagles peppered Gonnerman with 35 shots while Landreville had a slow night in the nets facing only 15 shots in the game. Erka Ries was excited after the game. “This is awesome,” she said. “We’re going to state. Our defense really stepped up and we never let Luverne get into the game.” Lexie Weiss is an old pro at going to state. She started playing as an eighth grader and this is her third trip. “I’m really excited. Now that I know what to expect I can’t wait. I’m so happy for the eighth graders on our team. They are in for a great experience” Weiss echoed Ries’s comments on defense. “We play a form of zone on defense. We all have our assignments and know where to be and if any other player gets out of position or in trouble, we know how to cover for her.”
Now the Eagles face a tough test in the state playoffs, taking on Section 4A Champion South St. Paul in the first round at the Xcel Center in St. Paul at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The Packers have a 20-7 record, play in one of the most competitive leagues in the state and are ranked third in Class A. Results won’t be posted in time for this edition of the newspaper, but a follow-up story will be in the next edition.