Co-op teams are a way of life in high school girls’ hockey these days. Largely because of changing demographics, schools often have to partner up if they want to offer certain sports, especially expensive ones like hockey.
“I think co-ops are a good thing,” said Cretin-Derham Hall coach Tony Scheid. “The more kids who can play high school hockey, the better.”
Of course, co-ops aren’t for everyone. Scheid said his varsity and JV rosters have 17 players each, which is adequate to sustain both teams.
There have been some local co-op team changes over the past couple of years. In 2018, the Saint Paul Blades, composed of players from the Saint Paul Public Schools, combined with Two Rivers (then Henry Sibley) to form the Saint Paul Riveters.
Then for last year’s shortened season, Visitation broke off on its own after spending decades with Saint Paul Academy as Saint Paul United. Meanwhile, SPA joined Minnehaha Academy as part of what is now the five-school Minnehaha United.
Visitation coach Billy Bellmore said that while co-ops might be a viable way to offer the sport to more players, there are also problems with frequent changing of team personnel and coaching staff. Having Visitation play on its own last year “was challenging,” he said. Indeed, the Blazers won only one game in their inaugural season as a solo act.
Riveters coach Allie Duellman said another issue is that many athletes now focus on only one sport. Back when she was playing prep hockey, Duellman said she played volleyball and softball during the off-season. Playing multiple sports is seldom seen today, which is why she said co-op teams proliferate.
Co-op or not, here’s a look at the local girls’ teams as the puck drops on the 2021-22 season:
League: Suburban East
Last year’s record: 11-6-2
Coach: Tony Scheid
Key players: senior forwards Lily Geist, Sammy Muetzel, Shannon Murphy, Ari Evans and Ryan Sherry; senior defenders Maggie Dolan and Lindsey Crain; and senior goalies Hannah Fritz and Erin Hannon.
Outlook: Scheid said competition in the conference is more rugged than ever, but he thinks his senior-laden team is ready for a big year. “Right now our sights are set on a conference championship, and then to go after a section championship,” he said.
(Minnehaha, Saint Paul Academy,
DeLaSalle, Providence, Saint Agnes)
League: Independent Metro Athletic
Last year’s record: 10-9
Coach: Dan Berthiaume
Key players: senior forwards Lucie Bond and Ava Wasserman, sophomore wing Charlotte Goings, junior defender Heidi Deuel, and sophomore defender Aurelia Meza.
Outlook: The United return nine skaters and two goalies, and also will welcome five new players. Berthiaume said it is looking up for his club. “I think it’ll be a good season,” he said. “We’ll be competitive against most of the teams we play.” There’s one downside though. “We’re in Class AA,” Berthiaume said. “I don’t think we should be.”
Saint Paul Riveters
(Two Rivers, Central, Highland, Como)
League: Metro East
Last year’s record: 2-16-1
Coach: Allie Duellman
Key players: senior forwards Solvei Berg-Messerole, Olivia Van Siclen and Molly Shetka; senior defender Lilly Leitner; and senior goalie Ellynor Haack.
Outlook: The Riveters have a modest mission. “Our goal is to be competitive in the conference,” said Duellman, whose club has five seniors. “We only lost three to graduation, and we return most of our offense.”
Last year’s record: 1-12
Coach: Billy Bellmore
Key players: senior forward Hannah Allen, eighth-grade center Abigail Hemauer, freshman wing Gracia Munoz, and junior forward-defender Lauren Reppenhagen.
Outlook: Bellmore said he likes the mental makeup of his players as they try to build a program of their own. “Our kids are sponges—so eager to learn,” he said. Bellmore has four seniors but is especially excited about his younger players. “This is a fun opportunity because a lot of these kids are just getting started,” he said.
— Bill Wagner
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