Sealing it with a smile
No matter what happened the night before, the smiling faces -- and the equally beaming attitude -- was in practice the next day, Park High School girls hockey coach Darren Reiter said of his team.
The Wolfpack, seeded No. 7 in this Friday's opening round of section play, sent off seniors Jamie Brooks, Megan Madson, Kirsten Tate and team manager Ericka Nikkola last Saturday before hosting White Bear Lake in its final regular-season contest of 2006-07.
And just like so many times before, it was another too-close-for comfort loss for Park (3-21-1, 2-14-0 SEC), which was downed 2-0 by Woodbury Jan. 30 and fell to White Bear Lake 2-1 on its home rink.
The defeats marked the end of a chapter for Park's seniors, whose team heads into the postseason on a nine-game losing streak.
But the playoffs have been pleasant to the 'Pack in years past, Reiter said, adding that he hopes Friday's section opener against No. 2 Hill-Murray won't be any different.
"The coaching staff appreciates how hard as a team (the girls) worked all year -- especially the contributions of our three seniors," Reiter said. "They come to rink every day with
such a great attitude and work-ethic, we want to make sure we extend their careers as long as we can."
The Wolfpack is still without the talents of defenseman Lauryn Morris, who is out with a knee injury. It is unclear if she will be able to compete in Friday's section opener.
Woodbury (8-15-2, 2-12-2 SEC), with the help of the SEC's second-leading goalie Emily Klatt, shut out the Wolfpack and scored two goals to take the win.
Park's Brooke Eggen led a fierce defensive attack, Reiter said, though Park struggled to connect at the net.
"We definitely had our chances to score, we just couldn't finish," Reiter said. "Eggen played extremely well. She just played so aggressively. From a defensemen standpoint, you can see the whole rink -- and she just stepped into their passing lane and created offense. She's one of our fastest players, if not our fastest."
Against White Bear Lake, freshman Holly Frankenburg scored the only goal for Park, giving the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period before White Bear Lake scored twice in the second period to take the win.
"That was a great thing, and that's the kind of thing we've talked about in practice -- showing patience and moving the goalie," Reiter said of Frankenburg's goal.
Scoring goals has not been instinctive for the Wolfpack. The most its ever scored in a game was three goals -- and that happened twice. Overall, the team scored 29 goals this season, while having 83 goals scored on it.
And it isn't as if they haven't been taking shots, either. Against Woodbury, Park made 24 attempts. Woodbury made 25. Two of them went in.
"It's just laying there and we can't get it through people," Reiter said. "Usually in a hockey season, you're going to have 10 to 15 goals where it maybe shouldn't have happened, but it did, and I can count two times this year that we've had a break."
While the players and coaching staff scratch their heads over the scoring conundrum, the Wolfpack will have a week to prepare for its post-season opener.
"(Hill-Murray) is the No. 2 seed and we're No. 7, so obviously they're the favorite," Reiter said. "But we've been telling our girls, if we work hard and compete like we have been, we're hoping it can be a one-goal game that can go in our favor."
WOODBURY 2, PARK 0
Woodbury 0 1 1 -- 2
Park 0 0 0 -- 0
WOODBURY (2) -- Morgan Demike 2, Brennan Lacher (assist), Kari Lundberg (assist), Christina Miller (assist)
Saves -- Woodbury (Emily Klatt) 24, Park (Janelle O'Neil) 23
WHITE BEAR LAKE 2, PARK 1
White Bear Lake 0 2 0 -- 2
Park 1 0 0 -- 1
WHITE BEAR LAKE (2) -- Natalie Hall (assist), Nicole Kwapick (assist), Maddie Marcotte 1, Chelsey Zahler 1
PARK (1) -- Jamie Brooks (assist), Holly Frankenberg 1
Saves -- White Bear Lake (Sydney Bruestles) 16, Park (Janelle O'Neil) 26