Wolfpack girls hockey team earns sixth seed
This week, Park shoulders a challenge to do something no other girls hockey team has done in school history.
Last week, the Park girls hockey team split the last two games of the regular season to earn the No. 6 seed in the Section 3AA Tournament and a rematch with No. 3 seed Eastview on Wednesday, Feb. 11 in Apple Valley and will attempt to be the first Park girls hockey team to reach the state tournament.
Last year, as the seventh seed, Park fell 2-1 to the Lightning in the first round of sections as second-seeded Eastview scored a pair of second-period goals to comeback and earn the win over the Wolfpack.
However, Park head coach Darren Reiter loves the opportunity to avenge last year's loss.
"That's exactly who we thought we were going to play," Reiter said. "It's a team that we lost 2-1 to last year, but we had like nine shots in the last minute of the game, but just couldn't score one. I think it's a good draw for us."
This past week, Park (8-15-2; 5-10-1 SEC) lost 3-0 to intra-district rival Woodbury for the second time this year, 3-0 at Bielenberg Ice Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 3 and beat Cretin-Derham Hall for the second time this season, 5-1, in the regular season finale on Friday, Feb. 6 at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena.
In the win over Cretin-Derham Hall, Park rebounded from its loss to Woodbury by scoring three unanswered first period goals to get a jump on the Raiders (5-20-0; 2-14-0 SEC).
"We were so flat against Woodbury," Reiter said. "You always want to end the year on a positive heading into the playoffs. To see our girls respond like they did was great."
Park's Holly Frankenberg, Erin Spinks and Caitlin Quinn scored back-to-back-to-back goals just over five minutes apart to put the Wolfpack up 3-0 with 1:02 remaining in the first-period. Park's Mallory Ryan and Allie Thalhuber added third-period goals to seal the win for the Wolfpack on Park's senior night, where the team's two seniors Ashley Rikkola and Lauryn Morris were honored.
"Our forwards were working extremely hard, our defense was doing a good job controlling the boards and we were getting great scoring opportunities," Reiter said. "We came in, were prepared and had hard-working goals."
Spinks, a junior, had three points in the game and Thalhuber, a freshman, had two points. Spinks finished the regular season with a team-high 16 points on the year. Thalhuber was second with 12 points and a team-leading seven goals.
Ryan, a sophomore, and sophomore Kaile St. Croix also each ended the regular season with a point total in double figures with 10 points a piece.
Against Woodbury, Park had 28 shots on goal, but was shutout by the Royals and junior goalie Jessica Wegleitner Taplin. The win kept Woodbury (10-14-1; 5-10-1 SEC) just ahead of Park in the SEC standings. The Royals finished in sixth place, while Park was seventh.
The loss was only Park's third of 2009. Since Jan. 1 the Wolfpack is 6-3-1.
However, depending on how you look at it, the loss to Woodbury may have been a blessing.
According to Reiter, a win over Woodbury would have given the Wolfpack the No. 4 seed and a home game in the first round of the playoffs. However, the four seed is in the same side of the playoff bracket as the top seed -- Eagan -- which is clearly the best team in the section.
The loss to Woodbury, which is the No. 5 seed and also in Eagan's bracket, meant Park is in the lower bracket with Eastview, No. 2 seed Burnsville and No. 7 Hastings. The Wolfpack already has wins over Burnsville and Hastings this season and Reiter feels any team from the lower bracket could reach the section finals. Park hasn't been in a section final since the 2004-05 season when it lost 9-1 to South St. Paul.
"In a 25-game schedule sometimes the kids don't realize just how important every single game is," Reiter said. "But, being the sixth seed you're staying away from Eagan. It's a much better bracket being in that six spot.
"If we come out and play well, we're going to be all right."