Girls Hockey: A memorable day for River Lakes Stars

Patrick Bernadeau, West Central Tribune, Willmar, Minn.
·4 min read

Mar. 27—ST. PAUL — The River Lakes girls hockey team had a fine showing in its state debut on Friday.

Facing the top seed in the Class A tournament, River Lakes Stars competed hard and even maintained a brief lead. But as time wore on, Gentry Academy, specifically its depth, was just too much to handle.

Gentry Academy scored four unanswered goals to defeat River Lakes 4-1 in a state quarterfinal game from the Xcel Energy Center.

The seeded Stars led 2-1 after two closely contested periods before putting the game away with two quick goals in the third.

"We're really proud of how our girls played," River Lakes head coach Alexis Klatt said. "They came out strong the first two periods. Gentry mixed some things up and we weren't able to keep up with them."

The top seed skated three full lines through the first two periods while River Lakes relied on two lines. Gentry Academy shortened its bench by sticking with just its first two lines in the third. With fresher girls on the ice, that adjustment paid immediate dividends.

Cara Sajevic scored unassisted just 31 seconds into the third put the private school in Vadnais Heights up 3-1. The sophomore forward led her team in points and goals this season. She finished the night with two goals.

Senior forward Angelina Ruiz added to the lead with an unassisted score of her own nearly four minutes later.

"I think our girls got a little fatigued there in the third and that's part of the reason why it was hard to keep up with Gentry," Klatt said.

At the midway point of the first, River Lakes was the team applying the pressure in the offensive zone. Within a four-minute stretch, the unseeded Stars had three quality scoring chances. Senior forward Kianna Roeske had her wrist shot stopped by Rylee Bartizal on a 2-on-1 before the sophomore goaltender collected a save on senior forward Aubrey Griffin on a 1-on-1 chance following a turnover. Later, Roeske had a rebound ring of the post.

River Lakes finally cashed in with 2:31 left in the opening period. After winning the puck on the boards behind the net, senior forward Hannah Zimmer found senior Myckenzie Cremers open on the near the right-side crease for the game's opening score.

"I think we came into the game with confidence," Klatt said. "Our girls were even more excited for this game than the Willmar (section championship) game if that was even possible. They came in knowing that they had to put up a big fight, but they also came in knowing they had a legit chance."

However, that lead was short-lived.

Following a long lead pass, sophomore forward Alexa Hanrahan entered the offensive zone alone against two defenders. Her initial shot was stopped by eighth-grade goaltender Kaydence Roeske, but Hanrahan buried the rebound just through a sliver of daylight inside the post.

Gentry Academy took the lead for good 4:03 into the second. Following a shot just behind the left circle, Sajevic swooped in to tap in the loose puck. All four Gentry's goals came on a rebound.

River Lakes had a pair of excellent chances later in the period. Midway through the second, senior defenseman Brianna Demming had a snipe bounce of the crossbar.

Later, Zimmer came up empty after a lead pass led to a breakaway. After her shot was stopped, she was able to draw a penalty, but Bartizal collected a pair of saves on the 5-on-4. She had 19 saves in the win.

Kaydence Roeske finished with 32 saves.

River Lakes ends the season with a 13-6-2 record.

Gentry Academy 4,

River Lakes 1

River Lakes (13-6-2) 1 0 0 — 1

Gentry Academy (18-2-0) 1 1 2 — 4

FIRST PERIOD — (1) RL: Myckenzie Cremers (Hannah Zimmer), 14:21 ... (2) GA: Alexa Hanrahan (Skylar Salscheider), 15:53

SECOND PERIOD — (3) GA: Cara Sajevic (Riley Reeves, Angelina Ruiz), 4:03

THIRD PERIOD — (4) GA: Sajevic (unassisted), 0:31 .... (5) GA: Ruiz (unassisted), 4:28

GOALIE SAVES/SHOTS — RL: Kaydenca Roeske 32/36 ... GA: Rylee Bartizal 19/20