With a 3-2 overtime loss at Mound-Westonka on Feb. 2, the Wright County Conference title went to the Orono Spartans and the Holy Family/Waconia girls’ hockey team is left in second place with a 6-2 conference record.
“All in all a very satisfying year,” said Wildfire head coach Ryan Rice, “but will be a tough pill to swallow, having let it slip away.”
The Wildfire picked up wins over Bloomington Kennedy and New Ulm earlier in the week to finish the regular season 19-5-1.
Wildfire 4, Bloom. Kennedy 2
Winning against a short-handed Eagles’ team on Jan. 29, the Wildfire put over 60 shots on goal, according to Rice.
“[We] just weren’t able to put the game out of reach, giving full credit to their goaltender, who played an excellent game,” he said.
Senior Jaci Reinke quickly got things started for the Wildfire, scoring on an assist from senior Megan Bunker at 1:45 in the first period.
Kennedy followed 10 minutes later with a power play goal, only to be one-upped by junior Shania Gonzales, who scored at 13:40 to give the Wildfire the 2-1 lead.
Reinke scored unassisted two minutes into the second period, followed by a Bloomington Kennedy goal at 9:42.
Eighth grader Ashlyn Rakos wrapped up the game with a goal at 2:06 in the third. Rakos was assisted by junior Brityn Ryshavy and sophomore Abby Hanscom.
Freshman goalie Lexi Hartmann was 15-17 in the net for a .882 save percentage.
Wildfire 4, New Ulm 1
Hosting New Ulm, and celebrating Senior Night, on Jan. 31, Rice said the team played well.
“We once again had several good scoring chances to put the game away early and could not,” he said. “All in all it was a good team effort, and a good win.”
Reinke and Gonzales scored minutes apart in the first period at 15:49 and 16:41 respectively for the early 2-0 lead. Freshmen Ally Marrs and Megan Menzuber assisted Gonzales.
At 4:25 in the second, Hanscom packed away goal number three for the Wildfire, assisted by Rakos.
New Ulm scored its goal at 15:29 in the third, answered by a Menzuber goal at 16:28 (assisted by Reinke).
The Wildfire had nearly double the shots on goal, 32-18. Hartmann saved 17 shots for a .944 save percentage.
Mound-Westonka 3, Wildfire 2
The battle for the conference title, hinged on the Wildfire’s Feb. 2 game at Mound-Westonka. Orono, who had already secured its share of the WCC title, had wrapped up the season earlier in the week, leaving the Wildfire with a choice: win and share the WCC title, or lose and leave Orono as the sole champion. After two hard-fought periods, the Wildfire led 2-0. Menzuber scored at 13:38 in the first, assisted by Rosland and Reinke, while Gonzales put in the second goal at 8:46 in the second period, assisted by Menzuber and Rakos.
The White Hawks tied in the third to drive the game into overtime.
At 6:05 in overtime, Mound-Westonka scored to win the game and dashed the Wildfire’s hopes of a conference title.
“In overtime we had a couple very good chances to end it and could not finish,” Rice said. “[Mound-Westonka] capitalized on their odd-person rush and it was over.”
It was a battle of the conference’s best goalies on Feb. 2 as Hartmann (No. 2) faced off against No. 1 Emma Polusny. Hartmann saved 23 (of 26) shots for a .885 save percentage, while Polusny saved 26 of 28 shots for a .929 percentage.
The Wildfire have been seeded No. 6 in Section 2AA play and will face off against No. 3 Bloomington Jefferson on Feb. 8 at the Bloomington Ice Garden. The game begins at 7 p.m. The Wildfire and the Jaguars have faced off earlier this season, with the Jaguars winning 2-1 on Nov. 17. Although Bloomington Jefferson is currently ranked No. 15 in Class 2A, Rice isn’t worried.
“I like our chances,” he said, “especially knowing that we have played them already in a tight game.”
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com