Despite the guidelines requiring face coverings, limits on the number of spectators and other prescribed safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic, local high school girls’ hockey coaches say they and their players are doing their best as they are finally allowed to get back on the ice this month.
“Our kids are adjusting,” said Sibley/Saint Paul Riveters coach Allie Duellman. “I think it’s going to be OK. We’ve had a whole lot of practice time already and we’re ready to go.”
Minnehaha United coach Dan Berthiaume was a little bit more hesitant when talking about requiring players to wear masks during practices and games. “We can only hope that (the guidelines) change,” he said. “Some masks are hard to breathe through, period. It’s hard to catch your breath. Inhaling is especially difficult.”
Ellie Tabaka, who stepped up to lead Visitation this season after its head coach resigned due to COVID-related challenges, said it has been challenging. “But our girls are just excited to go out there and play,” she said. “Everyone is dealing with this, but I think we’re learning a lot.”
Here’s a look at the local girls’ hockey teams as they mask up for the 2021 season:
League: Suburban East
Last year’s record: 12-13-1
Coach: Tony Scheid
Key players: senior center Lexi Bonfe; senior forwards Erin Anfang, Ella Klein and Frances Staples; senior defender Lily Barrett; and junior forward Lily Geist.
Outlook: The Raiders hope to crack into a top tier headed by Stillwater, Forest Lake, Roseville and perhaps others, said new head coach Scheid, who won two Class AA state titles with Stillwater and has a 260-112-21 career coaching record. “We have a great senior nucleus,” he said. “We have a very strong skating team and we’re well-balanced.”
League: Independent Metro Athletic
Last year’s record: 10-16
Coach: Dan Berthiaume
Key players: junior center Lucie Bond, and junior right wing Ava Wasserman.
Outlook: The Minnehaha Academy co-op now includes skaters from Saint Paul Academy, Providence Academy, DeLaSalle and Saint Agnes. There’s reason for optimism going into the season, coach Berthiaume said, even though his club will have to face perennially strong conference foes Blake and Breck, the latter of which was ranked first in the state in Class A in a preseason poll. “We have some good young players coming into our program,” Berthiaume said. Finishing with a .500 or better record would be quite an accomplishment, according to him.
SIBLEY/SAINT PAUL RIVETERS
League: Metro East
Last year’s record: 4-22
Coach: Allie Duellman
Key players: junior forward Molly Shetka, junior defender Drew Kuretsky, junior forward Olivia Van Siclen and senior forward Miesserole Solbei Berg.
Outlook: The Riveters, which is a cooperative team with players from Henry Sibley and the Saint Paul Public Schools, know that they’ll probably have to measure their progress incrementally this season. Coach Duellman said that although the team is young, “we hope to get a couple more conference wins under our belt.”
Last year’s record: 13-14-1
Coach: Ellie Tabaka
Key players: junior forward Hannah Allen, junior goalie Cady Cadel and sophomore defenseman Clare Olsen.
Outlook: The Blazers will be a free-standing team this season after spending decades as a co-op with SPA as Saint Paul United. Tabaka, who previously coached JV girls’ hockey at her alma mater Tartan, said her squad looks forward to the experience. “They’re excited to represent a whole new team,” she said. “We’re just trying to figure out who we are and how to have some fun.”
— Bill Wagner
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