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Rebels rely on youth on ice

Jessica Bird admitted there were days growing up when she and her twin sister, Jamie, got on each others' nerves.

Nowadays, they just do it to their opposing coaches.

The 14-year-old freshmen from Barnum mean a lot to the Moose Lake Area girls hockey team, as Jamie serves as a blue-line defender, while Jessica is a high-scoring forward.

Both have been on the varsity since eighth grade, and both -- despite their young age -- are valuable assets on the ice.

"Just to have a set of twins is nice, but to have a set as talented as they are is exceptional," said Rebels Coach Joe Mohelsky, in his eighth year with the cooperative program.

Jessica, who led MLA in scoring last season, noted she and her sister began open skating in Moose Lake at age 3 and never quit making the five-mile road trip.

Jamie, who was born first by 20 seconds, was the first to say she and her sister won a 12-and-Under state title at Moose Lake, while she also dreams of being a future Olympian.

Now though, the only future at hand is that of her team.

Teamed with Moose Lake's scoring threat in Mackenzi Louzek, the Bird twins are just a sliver of the 19 productive underclassmen listed on the Rebels' roster of 25 players.

"This group I've been eye-balling for the last few years," Mohelsky said Tuesday. "They're a very talented group."

MLA (2-2) has grouped two wins over Northern Lakes and Minnehaha Academy, thus far, while a 5-3 setback at Proctor-Hermantown and 7-2 defeat to Class AA Duluth Tuesday night at Riverside Arena, leave the Rebels eager.

"We have a good team this year, we think we can get far," Jessica said. "We just have to keep our heads high."

"We have to work together," Jamie added.

Togetherness is what brought MLA to last year's Section 7A semifinals, ultimately a 3-1 loss to state entrant Hibbing-Chisholm. The 10th-rated Bluestreaks beat No. 9 Proctor-Hermantown 3-2 Tuesday, as the two are again the favorites.

"I don't think anyone can take the Rebels lightly, either," added Mohelsky, who named seniors Andrea Youngberg, Haley Radel and junior Karina Cisar captains this winter.

Youngberg has also been on varsity since the eighth grade. She said all the youngsters are stepping up.

"We really have to rely on them," Youngberg said.

"We've learned from the older girls that if you want to win, you have to work hard," Louzek added. "We're just trying to fill the spots, support the puck and get it to the net."

All while making the opposing coaches a little nervous.