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Park girls hockey: Youthful Wolfpack struggle out of the gate

Park senior Emma Waller and the Wolfpack opened the season with a 3-0 loss to North St. Paul followed by a 6-1 loss to Burnsville. (Submitted photos by Steve Rooker)

A young Park girls hockey team faced various challenges in their first week of play.

The Wolfpack played a tight game at North St. Paul to open the season despite losing 3-0 on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The Polars scored their last goal in the final moments on an empty-netter. Otherwise, the Wolfpack stayed within two goals of the Polars throughout most of the game. The two teams went dead even on shots, 26-26.

“We expect them to work hard, improving every night,” Wolfpack coach Steve Morse said.

Wolfpack junior goalie Paige Press stopped 23 shots, and she did not allow a goal after the first period. Lily Langevin and Sara Warner both scored for the Polars in a three-minute span during that first period.

The Wolfpack killed both of the Polars’ power plays, but the Wolfpack went 0-4 on the power play. Sophomore forward Maddy Jeske gave the Wolfpack their first power play goal of the season later in the week against Burnsville on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Jeske scored the goal 7 minutes, 31 seconds into the second period against the Blaze. Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, they already had a 3-0 deficit from the first period as the Blaze’s offense cruised throughout in a 6-1 win as the Wolfpack dropped their home opener.

“Burnsville’s very good,” Morse said.

The Blaze (3-1, 1-0 South Suburban) received votes to be in the Associated Press top 20 poll, and they showed the Wolfpack (0-2, 0-0 Suburban East Conference) why they deserved such early-season recognition. Press kept busy in net, stopping 36 shots as the Blaze out-shot the Wolfpack 42-19. Four of the six goals by the Blaze came from power plays as the Wolfpack struggled on the penalty kill, 4-7.

The Wolfpack dropped their second-straight with a young team that has just four seniors and five juniors. While they do have four defenders back, the Wolfpack will need new players to step up for scoring.

“It will be a challenge, probably, trying to find a way to score goals,” Morse said.

Their schedule becomes no easier with Eagan (0-2-1, 0-0 SSC) on Thursday, Woodbury (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday and Roseville (3-0, 0-0 SEC) on Tuesday. The Woodbury Royals have been gaining steam with two wins in three games, and Roseville Raiders ranked No. 12 in the first AP poll.

“Hopefully, if we go out and compete, good things will happen,” Morse said.

-Matthew Davis