With one game left, Rebels aim to finish strong
It's a good time of the season to be playing well — especially when you face four section opponents in a one-week span.
For coach Joe Mohelsky and his Moose Lake Area girls hockey team, that week was last week, capped by Tuesday night's 3-2, come-from-behind win over Hibbing-Chisholm.
The Rebels (18-5-1) have one game remaining in their regular season, on Friday night in Duluth against the Northern Stars.
"That win showed a lot of character," Mohelsky said. "The girls could have given up but they kept working and we popped three (goals) in the third period."
Trailing 2-0 after two periods, the Rebels got third-period goals from Jamie Bird, Lauren Pederson and the game winner from Jessica Bird at 11:52.
"The best part of a win like this is that we're probably going to see Hibbing in the semifinals," Mohelsky said. "To have that momentum and that confidence is really big in the playoffs."
Maddy Gamst stopped 22 of 24 Hibbing shots in goal to earn the win.
The victory capped off a week that also saw wins at Eveleth-Gilbert (8-0 Tuesday, Jan. 24) and at International Falls (4-2 Saturday, Jan. 28) sandwiched around a 3-1 loss at Proctor-Hermantown Thursday, Jan. 26.
"We took a little dip in our record after the holiday tournament but the last few games have been pretty strong," Mohelsky said. "It's been a fun ride."
The loss to the Mirage was one Mohelsky feels his team can learn from — and the players will need to learn those lessons in a hurry given that playoffs are just around the corner.
"Maddie Gamst had a really good game for us against Proctor," Mohelsky said. "But they (Proctor-Hermantown) beat us up pretty good. Proctor is going to come hard at us all the time. I think they see us as a formidable foe so they are going to come after us hard.
"We can't play with fear against them," Mohelsky continued. "That will stifle us. We are a good team, every bit as good as Proctor, but it comes down to that mental aspect. We learned that we are 'that good,' and we can be in those types of games. We just have to play like we can."
That means doing the small things well.
"The things we're worked on each year: defensive zone, neutral zone, offensive zone," Mohelsky said. "We have to come out and win foot races to loose pucks, win battles on the boards and get the puck deep to initiate our forecheck. We didn't do those things against Proctor — we turned the puck over too much in the neutral zone and we have to win the battles."
Mohelsky says the team's mindset is excellent and that should help as playoffs near.
"This has been one year when every day at the rink has been a lot of fun," he said. "The kids have different personalities and you get to know each one differently. They're upbeat and excited, they listen to their music in the locker room and they are engaging on and off the ice. It's been a fun group to be around."