History was made this season by the Waconia U10B and U12 girls’ hockey teams. The two teams became the first teams in the Waconia Hockey Association’s 21-year history to advance to the state tournament. Prior to last season, when the Bantam A and U12B teams advanced to the regional level, no WHA team had ever even advanced passed the district playoffs.
With small numbers at the beginning of the season, the U10B girls’ hockey team had to pull a few players up from the U8 level to fill out their roster, making a team of third, fourth, and fifth grade girls.
Head coach Paul Woytcke said each girl on the team contributed, both during the regular season and in the state tournament games, whether on offense, defense, or both.
“That completes the dynamic of a hockey team, we don’t just have one good player,” he said.
In four tournaments played this season, these Wildcats won every won, picking up titles in Marshall, Eagan, Delano, and Breezy Point.
The girls finished the season with a record of 30-5-4.
After losing their first District 6 game to Prior Lake, the Wildcats rallied to win against Burnsville and rival New Prague becoming consolation champions and earning a state tournament entry.
“That’s what made it a lot more fun too, was because it was against New Prague,” Woytcke said.
At state, nerves got the best of the Wildcats in the first game, losing to River Lakes. Waconia rallied to win its second game in overtime against Andover before losing to Prior Lake to finish in sixth place of the eight teams at the tournament.
“Being in sixth place out of 92-some teams (in the league) is something to be proud of,” Woytcke said. With their win over Andover, the U10B Wildcats became the first WHA team in program history to win a state game, beating out the U12 players by just a few hours.
This season, Woytcke not only instilled fundamentals of the game in the girls, but he also aimed to get them passionate about the sport.
“What I wanted to teach this year was passion for the game, and I truly, truly think tat’s what got them through,” he said. “It’s about getting the girls playing hockey. It’s about getting to the rink, getting the skates on, going out and playing the game.”
Woytcke described this group of girls responded very well to coaching and were always willing to try.
“They’re pleasure, they just like to make you happy and do what you tell them to do and make it happen,” he said.
Although the team was young, Woytcke said it was the girls determination to succeed in a dominantly boys’ sport and the dedication of parents that made it work.
“It’s because the girls are dedication, the parents are dedicated, and the coaches are dedicated to make this team work,” he said.
The U12 Wildcats finished the season with a 41-8-3 record, 13-0-3 in the district. They not only advanced to the state tournament, but finished as consolation champions.
Head coach John Brandt said the team was made of a special group of girls.
“Yes, they were very talented, but more importantly, they were all great kids,” he said. “The work ethic was unbelievable and their ability to learn and implement advanced concepts of the game was truly amazing.”
In tournaments throughout the year, the Wildcats were champions at the Fargo Girls International Tournament in January and the Mankato Youth Tournament in December, and finished as runners up at both Eden Prairie and Edina in November.
The ‘Cats were runners up in the District 6 Playoffs, and consolation champions in the American Regional Playoffs, earning their state tournament trip.
At state on March 14-16, Waconia joined 16 other teams to battle it out for the title. The Wildcats first lost to eventual state champion Farmington, before coming back in the consolation bracket with a 7-1 victory over Eagan and a 5-4 comeback overtime win over Northfield.
“There was tremendous pressure on the girls being on the big stage, but their play throughout the tournament did not reflect it,” Brandt said.
He said the girls worked hard to meet the goals set for each game and practice and played with determination.
“Rarely can you honestly say that a team has done everything that you have asked of them, but I believe that these girls did,” Brandt said. “Their resiliency was unbelievable.”
These Wildcats were the first age-appropriate WHA team, made up solely of sixth and seventh graders. During the year, they scored 253 goals and only allowed 77 to be scored against them. The team was sponsored by KleinBank, KleinMortgage, MVEC, Yetzer’s Home Furnishings, Ridgeview Medical Center, and Hultgren, Hoxie, and Waki.
Brandt said the entire season and the state tournament appearance were made possible by the dedication and hard work of all involved.
“Additionally, all of the girls, coaches, and parents of our team owe a huge debt of gratitude to the likes of Mark Schiffman, John Bruellman, Tony Michel and the many others who made the Waconia Ice Arena a reality and put Waconia hockey on the map.”
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]