Team: Holy Family/Waconia girls’ hockey
Head coach: Ryan Rice
Assistant coaches: TJ Garin, Julie Rockford, and Kip Rakos
Captains: Shania Gonzales, Jamie Kichler, Sarah Rosland, and Brityn Ryshavy
Conference: Wright County
Class/Section: Class AA, Section 2 – Bloomington Jefferson, Eden Prairie, Edina, Shakopee, Chaska/Chanhassen, and Prior Lake
2013 finish: With a 19-6-1 record last year, the Wildfire narrowly finished second to Orono in conference play. The team defeated every Wright County team at least once during the season and won the Schwan Cup over the holiday break. Holy Family/Waconia lost in the first round of section play to Bloomington Jefferson.
Key returning players: With only two players missing from the varsity roster (All-Conference honoree Jaci Reinke and Megan Bunker), many familiar faces will be back on the ice for the Wildfire this season, led by seniors and captains Shania Gonzales, Jamie Kichler, Sarah Rosland, and Brityn Ryshavy. Junior Abby Hanscom and sophomore Megan Menzuber return to the Wildfire attack, and along with Rosland are expected to produce many goals this season.
“We haven’t changed a whole lot up front,” head coach Ryan Rice said.
Also back this season is goalkeeper Lexi Hartmann, who returns for her sophomore season after her debut season in goal as a freshman in 2012-13.
“She had a really good year last year,” Rice said. “It feels good to have someone with that much experience coming back.”
Key newcomers: Among the new faces on the Wildfire roster this season, eighth graders Molly Garin and Grace Blood are expected to see significant varsity time, according to Rice.
Teams to beat: After just missing out on the conference title last season, the Wildfire already have their eyes set on Orono, along with Mound-Westonka, as the teams to beat.
“Those will be good games,” Rice said.
Powerhouse teams like Eden Prairie and Edina dominate the section. But the Wildfire will see most of the their section teams during the regular season to help prepare for the postseason tournament.
“Realistically, we’re probably in the middle of that pack,” Rice said.
Goals: Winning the conference is one of the team’s top goals this season, after letting it slip through the fingers last year.
“We had it,” Rice said.
The Wildfire also want to build more positive energy throughout the season to carry into the postseason, and hopefully be able to host a section game, meaning they have to grab one of the top four seeds.
To do that, the Wildfire will have to work through some inconsistencies they are already seeing on the ice, Rice said, and be able to play the full game. But one of the team’s strengths is its potential.
“I think our potential [is a strength],” Rice said. “We can play with just about anybody if we want to.”
First games: The Wildfire kicked off the season with a 5-2 win over the St. Cloud Icebreakers on Nov. 12, followed by losses to Bloomington Jefferson and Achiever Academy on Nov. 16 and Nov. 21.
Last week, Holy Family/Waconia defeated South St. Paul in a 5-3 game on Nov. 26 and finished 1-1 in a Prior Lake tournament over the holiday weekend, first losing to Prior Lake 4-0 before defeating Holy Angels/Richfield 3-2 in overtime.
Menzuber, Rosland, and Hanscom teamed up against South St. Paul to score all five goals and take all the assists.
Menzuber had a hat trick during the game, plus two goals from Rosland sealed the deal for the Wildfire.
Lexi Hartmann saved 12 of 15 shots on goal for a .800 save percentage.
The Wildfire are getting set for a string of home games against Hutchinson (Dec. 12), Holy Angels (Dec. 14), and Hopkins (Dec. 17).
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com