Panthers planning another skate toward state

Girls hockey team has three Division I-bound players

Senior defender Dani Sadek is one of the Lakeville North girls hockey team's top players. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Senior defender Dani Sadek is one of the Lakeville North girls hockey team’s top players. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

So far, Lakeville North’s biggest problem has been the referee raising his arm, blowing his whistle and motioning a Panthers player toward the penalty box.

When the parade of penalties stops, coach Buck Kochevar is convinced the girls hockey team will play to its potential. And the ceiling is high for a North team that’s loaded with talent, including three Division I-bound players who helped the Panthers reach the state tournament the last two years.

“We have a bigger defensive corps, and a bump can send a player into left field, so to speak,” Kochevar said. “That’s caused some of our penalties. We’ve had some others happen when we took shifts that were too long and our players got tired.

“But our goals-against average has been pretty good, and that’s because our ‘D’ group has been playing very well and our goalie is coming along.”

The Panthers were 1-1-1 through their first three games. They tied Eastview 1-1 in their season opener, lost to Minnetonka 2-0 in a rematch of the schools that played an epic six-overtime game in the 2013 Class AA state tournament, and defeated Cretin-Derham Hall 3-0.

Kochevar said he thought the Panthers outplayed Minnetonka five-on-five in their Nov. 12 game. But penalties got them in trouble, and Minnetonka scored one of its goals on the power play.

Maddie McGlade scored twice and Alexis Joyce had one goal in the victory over Cretin-Derham Hall on Nov. 16. North outshot the Raiders 47-10, but according to Kochevar spent about half of the second period skating at a five-on-three disadvantage because of penalties.

Senior Dani Sadek, who signed last week to play at Ohio State, leads a defensive group that Kochevar said should be one of the team’s strengths. The Panthers want to arrange it so Sadek or junior Taylor Flaherty is skating on defense at all times.

Maggie Flaherty, an eighth-grader and Taylor’s younger sister, should fit in quickly, having played previously at the boys Pee Wee A level. Sophomore defender Brianna Vetter might be the team’s strongest player pound-for-pound, Kochevar said.

Seniors Alexis Joyce, who’s headed for Bemidji State, and Christi Vetter, who has signed with Penn State, are among the top forwards. The Panthers have some other veteran players up front, including McGlade, senior Heidi Winiecki and junior Riley Tousignant.

“We haven’t scored a lot of goals yet, but we’ll get better,” Kochevar said. “We need to be a little more creative and we need to go harder to the net, and we have the players to do that.”

Abby Cooper, a junior, is likely to get most of the starts in goal as her two backups are junior varsity players. She has a 0.95 goals-against average and .941 save percentage through three games.

Lakeville North, third in last year’s state tournament, is ranked eighth in Class AA by Let’s Play Hockey. The Panthers already have faced No. 2-ranked Minnetonka and have games upcoming against No. 3 Hill-Murray (Nov. 26) and No. 1 Benilde-St. Margaret’s (Dec. 6). Both are at Ames Arena.

North returns to South Suburban Conference action Thursday at Rosemount. At 3 p.m. Saturday the Panthers play host to Eagan. Last year Lakeville North and Eagan tied for the South Suburban title, and both advanced to the state tournament.

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