Wildfire hope to win WCC in 2013-14

The Wildfire will lose seniors Megan Bunker, Libby New, and Jaci Reinke this year, but will return a host of experienced players for next year and hope to win the WCC in 2013-14.

The Wildfire will lose seniors Megan Bunker, Libby New, and Jaci Reinke this year, but will return a host of experienced players for next year and hope to win the WCC in 2013-14.

The achievements of the Holy Family/Waconia girls’ hockey team this season are nothing to scoff at. With a strong 19-6-1 season, the Wildfire won a holiday tournament and made a heated run for the conference title.

“I would say that our season highlights would be beating Mound and also Orono to put us in position to have a shot at our first conference title,” head coach Ryan Rice said.

The Wildfire stayed tight with Orono throughout the season in the battle for the WCC title and gave themselves a fighting chance by defeating the Spartans 3-1 on January 19. But Holy Family/Waconia would lose to Mound-Westonka in a 3-2 overtime game in the final game of the regular season to finish 6-2 in the WCC, while Orono was 7-1.

But with just six losses on the season, the Wildfire consistently built win streaks broken up by losses to tough teams like Bloomington Jefferson, Eden Prairie, and Chaska/Chanhassen. Throughout the season, the Wildfire defeated the four other conference team at least once, and other teams like St. Cloud, Holy Angels/Richfield, Minnehaha Academy, and Shakopee.

Holy Family/Waconia won the Schwan Cup tournament Dec. 27-29 by defeating Holy Angels, Hudson (Wisc.), and SB/TH/CC/Ely/NE Range for the title.

As much success as the team had on the ice, Rice said he wasn’t sure the team played to its full potential in the end.

“I didn’t feel like we were ‘peaking’ as a team this year at the end of the season, unlike the previous three years I felt we were playing our best hockey when it mattered most,” he said.

The Wildfire lost in the first round of Section 2AA in a 6-2 loss to Bloomington Jefferson on Feb. 8.

But overall, Rice said the Wildfire had a very good year, picking up 19 wins.

“We had a great group of girls that played well as a team,” he said. “We had a lot of younger players that stepped in to fill their roles on the team nicely. We also had some great leadership from our older players to help mentor the young players.”

Three of those older players will graduate this season, including captains Jaci Reinke and Megan Bunker, along with Libby New. Rice said all three have played an integral role in helping establish a successful program.

“They have helped us move from the ‘cellar’ of the conference to be in contention to winning the conference in their four years,” he said.

Reinke, who leaves the team after five seasons, led the team in point production and was unquestionably a leader, Rice said.

“The other teams feared her abilities on the ice,” he said.

Bunker, a four-year team member, transitioned to defense the last two seasons and handled the change “flawlessly.”

“We will have to find someone to replace her on the blue line, where she logged a lot of minutes the past two years,” Rice said.

New, who has been a goalie for four seasons, has mostly played at the junior varsity level during her tenure with the Wildfire, but still made a big difference.

“She is a tremendously hard worker and is very determined to do her best at anything she does,” Rice said. “Goalies have been tough to come by and she has spent endless hours practicing and backing up to help make our program better over the past four years.”

Next year, the Wildfire will return all of their forwards and this season’s starting goalie in freshman Lexi Hartmann. In the wake of Reinke and Bunker, juniors Jamie Kichler and Shania Gonzales will be crucial on the blue line for the team. At forward, freshman Megan Menzuber, and juniors Abby Hanscom and Sarah Rosland will also return.

Hartmann will return to goal after a “tremendous” year, according to Rice, where she logged nearly 1,300 minutes in the net, cataloguing 19 wins and four shutouts. She saved 408 of 454 shots on goal for a total save percentage of .899.

“We are excited for next season,” Rice said. “We hope to compete for and win the conference next season and to be competitive in our section.”

This year, the Wildfire scored 96 goals in their 26 games. Top scorers included Menzuber (20), Reinke (19), Hanscom (18), and Rosland (14). The team tallied 105 assists, led by Rosland (14) and Menzuber (13), and with junior Brityn Ryshavy (10).

All-Conference awards went to Reinke, Hanscom, and Menzuber, while Rosland, Gonzales, and Kichler, and Hartmann were All-Conference Honorable Mention. Reinke was voted the team’s MVP.

Rosland, Gonzales, Kichler, and Ryshavy will captain the team in the 2013-14 season.

Contact Melissa Marohl at melissa.marohl@ecm-inc.com

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