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John's Journal: Postgame Leadership On Display

Rosemount Captains Take Over The Interview Room

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2023 - 3:33 PM


Rosemount captains Anna Shandorf and Sophie Stramel and co-coaches Jennifer Williams and Kyle Finn.

Leadership can be seen in many places. On the high school level, team captains set the tone for younger players, whether it’s at practice, in school or during competition.

Leadership can also be seen after games, especially following tough losses.

During this week’s girls state hockey tournament at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, the postgame routine is familiar. Head coaches and usually two or three players sit at a raised table in front of media members. It’s quite straightforward: Questions are asked, answers are given.  

After the first Class 2A state quarterfinal game on Thursday, however, everything was different. Unseeded Rosemount had just lost to second-seeded and defending state champion Andover 9-0. Co-coaches Kyle Finn and Jennifer Williams took seats at the table along with captains Anna Shandorf and Sophie Stramel.

Almost always, the coaches make an opening statement and questions follow, most of them answered by the coaches. After losing at state, student-athletes are often a bit downcast. Not Anna and Sophie. They absolutely owned the room.

Finn opened the session by smiling and saying, “We are ready for questions.” And for the next five and a half minutes (in a nine-minute press conference), the players smiled, talked, answered all the questions and enjoyed the moment. One would finish answering a question and the other would pick up the thread and add more comments. It was high-level, tag-team leadership and I’ve never seen anything like it.

The opening question was about Andover’s skill level and what the Irish hoped to do on the ice.

Anna answered, “I think we were really just trying to believe in ourselves, like having the mentality going in that we can do this, we can really just work together as a team and play for each other.”

Anna and Sophie answered questions about what was discussed in the locker room between periods, about Andover’s talent and experience, the emotions of playing at the state tournament in the big arena, and the future of their hockey program. What they said was important, but how they said it, bolstered by their self-confidence and joy, was evident.

“We're a young team,” said Sophie. “We have lots of first years. I think we only have maybe five returners this year and I think that it gives me so much more hope for the future of Rosemount hockey. The younger players that are coming up, those girls look up to us and they want to be like us, they want to be playing at the state tournament and they want to be winning. I think it's really good for us to know that.”

Asked about pregame emotions, Anna said, “Being a senior, it's just unreal to be on this team and be able to make it my last year. We made it here this year and I just can't be prouder. It was just a great feeling to be here.”

Finn talked about how much Anna and Sophie and the other veteran players have meant. The co-coaches were new this year and the seniors went the distance in leading the squad.

“We’re super happy and super proud of these girls,” Finn said. “They were kind of put in a tough situation early in the season with a brand new coaching staff coming in right before the season started. We had phenomenal leadership from our captains and it’s a huge testament to them to be able to play here.

“(Coaching has been) unbelievably easy. We’ve barely even had to coach this team. We could let the captains run practice. We probably don't need to be here. The girls even checked everybody in at the hotel.”

The Biggest Goal Of The Tournament

After losing to Warroad 15-1 in Wednesday night’s Class A state quarterfinals, the Albert Lea girls hockey team left the ice without making much noise. But the last player to head to the locker room wore a smile that spoke volumes.

First, realize this: The Tigers are one of the youngest teams to ever play at state. The team has no seniors, three juniors, eight sophomores, four ninth-graders, four eighth-graders and one seventh-grader.

One of the team captains is sophomore Shelby Evans, and she wore the postgame smile. The lopsided final score is what will be listed in the tournament annals, but what Shelby will remember is playing at Xcel Energy Center with her teammates and scoring a goal.

She got the goal at the 8:03 mark of the second period, making the score 6-1, and was smothered by her teammates. Assists went to sophomore Mika Cichosz and eighth-grader Sydney Kolker.

“It was super cool,” Shelby said. “I’m glad we could get that shot on net and I was right there. That was a pretty good deal right there.”

Tigers coach Mark Goskeson added with a smile,It was nice to see us put a puck in the net. We got some excitement from that.”

Hey, Who Can Drive?

When the hockey season started, the team from Luverne faced a minor travel issue. The Cardinals practice and play at city-owned Blue Mound Ice Arena, which is a mile and a half from the high school. The issue came when the school day ended and the girls needed to get to the rink. Traditionally, players who are able to drive transport younger teammates.

This season, only three players were licensed to drive when practice started.

“The whole team would load up in three cars,” said coach Tony Sandbulte. “I’m not sure it was always legal but they got there and we had practice.”

Sophomore Payton Behr got her driver’s license in January, adding a fourth vehicle to the caravan.

“That's what small town hockey is, that's what you have to do,” said the coach.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 


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Class AA Girls Hockey State Quarterfinal: Minnetonka 3, Centennial/Spring Lake Park 2