Prep girls hockey: Hilltoppers start fast, skate past Rebels in 7A semifinals
Duluth Marshall’s victory sets the stage for a championship showdown with two-time defending champion Proctor/Hermantown.
CLOQUET — Duluth Marshall girls hockey coach Callie Hoff wasn’t quite as cheery as a coach would normally be following a 5-1 victory, but Hoff had good reason for that after the Hilltoppers dispatched Moose Lake Area Saturday, Feb. 11, at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
Duluth Marshall, which scored four goals in the first period, came out of the gates Saturday looking like a Lamborghini. They exited more like a dump truck.
“Coach was upset about that, and that’s totally understandable,” said sophomore forward Nina Thorson, who paced the Hilltoppers with two goals and an assist. “That’s not how you win a game. You’ve got to keep going, no matter what the score is.”
Second-seeded Duluth Marshall (20-6-1) will keep going on to a Section 7A championship showdown with top-seeded Proctor/Hermantown (18-6-2) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
“I wasn’t very excited about second and third periods,” said Hoff, the NCAA Division III national player of the year at Wisconsin-River Falls who is in her first year leading the Hilltoppers. “We had the best first period we’ve had in a long time, but you can’t let up. We know Proctor/Hermantown is going to be a three-period game, start to finish. It’s going to come down to who wants it more. Our players want revenge.”
It has been a one-sided rivalry between the Hilltoppers and Mirage. Proctor/Hermantown has knocked Duluth Marshall out of the playoffs four straight years, including the past two section finals. The Mirage defeated the Hilltoppers 6-0 in 2021 en route to winning the Class A state title and 3-0 in last year’s section finals, en route to a runner-up Class A finish.
The teams met Jan. 24 in Hermantown, with Proctor/Hermantown winning 4-3 on Nya Sieger’s goal at 14:51 in the third period.
“Our girls are ready to embrace the challenge and change the script,” said Marshall associate head coach Shawna Davidson.
The Hilltoppers, suddenly about as healthy as they've been all season, have been rolling over opponents lately, scoring at least seven goals in four straight games going into Saturday. It appeared they were going to do that again after erupting for four goals in just over a seven-minute span of the first period against Moose Lake Area (13-11-2).
Give the Rebels credit. They just didn’t fold it up there. They played through a scoreless second period and scored at 7:42 in the third period when talented sophomore defenseman Hallie Klavu pounced on a rebound. Duluth Marshall added an empty netter for the final margin.
Mallory Hartl had 30 saves for the Rebels and Ray Anderson had 19 saves for the Hilltoppers, who got three assists from Sarah Stauber.
Moose Lake Area had no seniors on this year’s varsity roster.
“That was a rough first period, to say the least,” Rebels coach Reilly Fawcett said. “The most frustrating thing is I think we had a good start, in the first five minutes, but then they got a goal and we just started throwing the puck around and turning it back over. Without those, it could be a one-goal game.
“But we responded well (to that rough first period) and that’s all you could ask for.”
Moose Lake Area 0-0-1—1
Duluth Marshall 4-0-1—5
First period — 1. DM, Annie Bachand (Danica Mark), 8:41; 2. DM, Ilsa Lindaman (Sarah Stauber), 11:23; 3. DM, Nina Thorson (Stauber), 12:28; 4. DM, Avery Lian (Stauber, Thorson), 15:58 (pp).
Second period — No scoring.
Third period — 5. MLA, Hallie Klavu (Jorja Jusczak), 7:42; 6. DM, Thorson, 16:12 (en).
Saves — Mallory Hartl, MLA, 30; Ray Anderson, DM, 19.
Proctor/Hermantown 4, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 0
Junior forward Izy Fairchild scored the first two goals of the game and the Mirage used a big third period to keep the fourth-seeded Lumberjacks at bay in the opening Section 7A semifinal at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
Sophomore goalie Neelah McLeod needed only to make nine saves for her third shutout of the season.
Araya Kiminski, one of seven seniors for CEC, had 40 saves for the Lumberjacks (9-13-5).
“I think we played with confidence and composure, which is what we wanted,” Mirage coach Emma Stauber said. “We wanted that puck possession. We knew Araya was going to be tough to get through, but we just played very poised and moved the puck with confidence.”
Kiminski, who burst onto the Northland girls hockey scene as a freshman, helping lead CEC to a runner-up finish at the Class A state hockey tournament, has been a staple in net for the Lumberjacks ever since.
Lumberjacks coach Kennedy Houge said Kiminski, a three-sport athlete, wasn’t set on her college plans but could end up attending Minnesota Duluth to study finance. If Saturday was indeed her last game, she ended in style, making some ridiculous saves, including 16 in the first period alone as CEC went into the first intermission only trailing 1-0 after Fairchild scored on the power play at 10:35.
“We’ve been chasing Araya for the last four years,” Stauber said. “She’s been around, and they’ve built their program around her. She’s kept them in many games, and we knew that going in. We had to find a way through that. I felt like we got pucks to the net and got a lot of really really good scoring opportunities. She did a good job saving most of them, even the rebounds. She definitely made it a challenge for us.”
Fairchild scored her second goal unassisted at 8:29 in the second period. That helped spark the Mirage to three goals in just over six minutes of the second, including another power-play goal to complete the scoring.
The 4-0 game was the same result of the teams’ regular-season meeting Dec. 20 in Proctor. Whatever scoring opportunities the Lumberjacks came up with, the Mirage worked very quickly to extinguish them.
“A lot of people’s expectations were to see Duluth Marshall and Proctor/Hermantown meet in the playoffs,” Houge said. “There was no target on us, so it was just a matter of us doing what we needed to do to try to generate something offensively.”
Houge was in her first year as CEC’s head coach after spending three years as an assistant. She was assisted by Scott Arntson and Hailey Raske.
“I think it went really well,” Houge said. “I learned as a head coach and as a person and had a really good coaching staff. I felt like we helped develop our players and had some success.”
First period — 1. Izy Fairchild (Hannah Graves), 10:35 (pp).
Second period — 2. Fairchild, 8:29; 3. Mya Gunderson (Katie Sandelin), 9:50; 4. Reese Heitzman (Ava Anick, Morgan LaValley), 14:47 (pp).
Third period — No scoring.
Saves — Araya Kiminski, CEC, 40; Neelah McLeod, PH, 9.