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Class A Girls Hockey State Championship: Warroad 5, Dodge County 2

Posted: Saturday, February 24, 2024 - 7:41 PM

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Warroad and Dodge County, on the opposite ends of the girls hockey state tournament spectrum in terms of history, have each had storybook seasons.

Much of the state tournament buzz centered about Dodge County, a first-time entrant that featured a dynamic lineup of rising stars that made onlookers take notice. The Wildcats captured the Section 1A crown and earned the No. 3 seed in the Class A field. Dodge County had even been dubbed a Cinderella-type story.

Warroad, meanwhile, had an uncharacteristic season that featured eight losses, albeit against a stiff regular-season schedule designed to prepare the Warriors for postseason play. Even though the Warriors were the two-time defending Class A champion, they were tabbed with the No. 4 seed.

Only the storyline of Warroad, playing with a youthful team in the aftermath of graduation losses from a year ago, played out to fruition as the Warriors raced to a 5-2 victory in the Class A championship game on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Sophomore forward Taylor Reese had two goals while junior Kaiya Sandy had a goal and two assists to power the Warriors (22-8-0) to a three-peat and their fifth championship overall in 16 state tournament appearances.

En route to its latest crown, the Warriors defeated No. 5 Proctor/Hermantown in the quarterfinals and then upended top-seeded Holy Angels in the semifinals. Warroad is the first Class A team to claim a three-peat of state titles since Breck accomplished the feat from 2018-2020.

“Nobody had this on their bingo card at the beginning of the year,” Warriors coach David Marvin said to the media after the semifinal victory. “I know I didn’t.”

Dodge County (23-5-0), which upset No. 2 Orono to earn a berth in the Class A title game, got the quick start it was seeking when Nora Carstensen scored a power-play goal with not even four minutes elapsed.

All that did, though, was perk up the Warriors, who drive 355 miles and six hours to play in the annual state tournament. Warroad answered with two goals in the first period, one each on even strength from Sandy and freshman Jaylie French. The huge momentum swing continued into the second period when Warroad added tallies from Reese and sophomore Vivienne Marcowka.

Warroad extended its lead to 5-1 early in the third period before skating the clock out with controlled dominant play.

Third place: Orono needed a goal in the closing minute by Zoe Lopez to claim the third-place trophy with a 3-2 victory over Holy Angels at Xcel Energy Center. The Spartans (22-7-1) used the special teams earlier when Lopez scored a shorthanded goal and Maddy Kimbrel scored on a power play. Holy Angels finished the season 22-5-3.

Consolation: Proctor/Hermantown (20-9-2) ended its season on a winning note with a 5-2 victory over Willmar in the consolation final at the TRIA Rink in St. Paul. The Mirage, making its fourth consecutive state tournament appearance, set the pace with three goals in the first period. Proctor/Hermantown outshot Willmar 14-5 in the opening period and 44-16 for the game.

Jane Eckstrom started the game’s offense for the Mirage with a goal at 6:45 of the first, which included an assist from Izy Fairchild.  At 7:04 of the opening period, Anika Burke scored for Proctor-Hermantown with assists from Morgan LaValley and Jane Eckstrom.  Fairchild went on to complete the first period for the Mirage with a goal at 15:01 on helpers from Burke and Eckstrom.

Proctor-Hermantown pushed its lead to 4-0 at 4:44 of the second period with a goal by Reagan Zywicki with a solo assist from Hannah Graves.  Willmar managed to break the shutout at 6:04 of the second period with a power play goal by Avery Olson, which included an assist from Lily Jorgensen.  The Cardinals then scored their second goal of the day with an unassisted marker by Lauren Eilers at 9:59 of the second.

To complete the game’s offense, Ella Rothe scored Proctor-Hermantown’s fifth goal at 2:39 of the third period with assists from Hailey Jussila and Addison Hieb.

Neelah McLeod posted 14 saves in the game and gained the victory in goal for the Mirage.  Of note, this was Willmar’s fourth state tournament appearance since 2002.  The 2021 Class A champion, Proctor-Hermantown was making its ninth state appearance in 2024.

2024 Girls Hockey Class A Champion Warroad

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