Duluth News Tribune 2022-23 Girls Hockey Preview

Duluth Marshall’s Hoff among four new girls hockey coaches in the area.

Girls hockey players in white, blue and black uniforms play against players in black and yellow uniforms on indoor ice sheet.
Izy Fairchild (27) of Proctor Hermantown skates with the puck through Ilsa Lindamann (19) and Anna Koski (23) both of Marshall School on Feb. 2, at the St. Luke's Sports and Event Center in Proctor.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — As sure as the snow starts falling this time of year change is in the air and that is certainly the case with Northland girls hockey.

Four programs have new women’s coaches this season, with former Proctor/Hermantown star Callie Hoff taking the reins at Duluth Marshall, Ali Randall leading the Duluth Northern Stars, former assistant Kennedy Houge moving into the head coaching position at Cloquet/Esko/Carlton and former Minnesota Duluth goalie Paddy Elsmore leading the Rock Ridge Wolverines.

Former Proctor/Hermantown star, a recent college grad, is one of four new women’s head coaches in the area.

Three of those coaches are in their 20s and hope to inject renewed energy and vigor into their programs.

While change is inevitable and good, some things never change, or so it seems, and that’s been the case with Northland girls hockey in recent years as Proctor/Hermantown will be the team to beat for the third straight year.

The Mirage won the Class A state title in 2021 and finished as runner-up last year, something fourth-year coach Emma Stauber described as disappointing. Yes, that’s how high the bar has been set for the program.


With the likes of seniors Nya Sieger (21-30—50), and Reese Heitzman (13-13—26) returning, as well as juniors Izy Fairchild (28-14—42) and Hannah Graves (16-12—28), Proctor/Hermantown will once again be deep and talented.

The biggest question will be what kind of defense and goaltending the Mirage will get as they graduated standout Abby Pajari, the 2021-22 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year who is now at Wisconsin-Superior.



Grand Rapids/Greenway's Mercury Bischoff
Grand Rapids/Greenway's Mercury Bischoff
Submitted photo

Grand Rapids-Greenway, Sophomore forward

Bischoff led the Northland in scoring last year with 49 goals and 25 assists for 74 points and keeps getting better. “Mercury is one of the top 2025 (graduating) female players in the country,” Lightning coach Brad Hyduke said. “Her rare combination of deception, elite skating creativity and hockey IQ makes her an electric player who is a joy to coach and watch.”


Duluth Marshall's Ilsa Lindaman
Duluth Marshall's Ilsa Lindaman
Submitted photo.

Duluth Marshall, Junior forward

Lindaman is a prolific scorer, notching 34 goals and 21 assists for 55 points in just 25 contests last season. Just a junior, she has committed to playing college hockey at the University of St. Thomas, an upstart NCAA Division I program in St. Paul. The Duluth News Tribune All-Area First Team selection will serve as captain this winter for the Hilltoppers while centering one of two very talented lines.


Meredith Boettcher
Duluth Marshall's Meredith Boettcher
Submitted photo

Duluth Marshall, Senior forward

Boettcher is a versatile player who has played her share along the blue line over the years. Last season the Nazareth College (Pittsford, N.Y.) recruit had 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points. She, along with teammate and best friend, senior forward Danica Mark (9-11—20), won the Class A state consolation tennis doubles title this fall. “I prefer forward but know I’m a capable defender, so it’s another tool,” Boettcher said.


Proctor/Hermantown's Nya Sieger
Proctor/Hermantown's Nya Sieger
Submitted photo.

Proctor/Hermantown, Senior forward

It’s hard to stand out on a team as deep and talented as Proctor/Hermantown, but Sieger (21-30—50) has found a way to do it. She was the top point-getter for the Class A runner-up Mirage last year and along with juniors Izy Fairchild (28-14—42) and Hannah Graves (16-12—28), has opponents feeling like the Mirage come in waves.


Cloquet/Esko/Carlton's Araya Kiminski
Cloquet/Esko/Carlton's Araya Kiminski
Submitted photo.


Senior goalie

A list of any top five would be remiss without a netminder, and the Lumberjacks have a really good one in the veteran Kiminski, a two-time All-Area selection who backstopped CEC to a state runner-up finish in 2020 as a freshman. She helped carry the Lumberjacks to a 19-7-1 record last season, posting a Northland-best 1.34 GAA to go along with a .921 save percentage and nine shutouts. That included a stretch where she only allowed one goal in more than 7 1/2 hours of hockey, achieving her 1,000th career save in the process.


Duluth Marshall at Proctor/Hermantown

7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15

This matchup in Hermantown — the only one between them during the regular season, at least — is a rematch of the last two Section 7A championship games, both won by Proctor/Hermantown. The Mirage won 6-0 in 2021 in Proctor en route to a 21-0 record and the program’s first state title. The Mirage won 3-0 last February in Virginia en route to a runner-up finish at the state tournament. Of course, you don’t have to tell the Hilltoppers twice. “We’ve been knocking at the door every year,” Duluth Marshall senior Meredith Boethcher said. “I think it’ll come down to how bad the girls want it, and I know that all the girls that we have want it.”

Moose Lake Area at Cloquet/Esko/Carlton

7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15

Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet will be the host site for the latest chapter in this budding rivalry. The Lumberjacks have a new coach in former assistant Kennedy Houge. Moose Lake Area, meanwhile, has become a very solid program under coach Reilly Fawcett, the 2014 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year, and last year played a very tight game with Fawcett’s old team, Proctor/Hermantown. Cloquet/Esko/Carlton and Moose Lake Area are also scheduled to meet Tuesday, Nov. 22, at Riverside Arena in Moose Lake.

Duluth at Duluth Marshall

4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10

Mars Lakeview Arena is the location for this Saturday matinee, the one and only meeting between the programs this season. Both teams are fed by the Duluth youth program, the Duluth Icebreakers, and are natural rivals. And both have new coaches, with Ali Randall heading up the Northern Stars and Callie Hoff leading the Hilltoppers. It’s one of those matchups where pretty much everybody knows everybody.

Proctor/Hermantown at Grand Rapids/Greenway

7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8

This matchup at IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids, the only meeting between the programs this season, often pits the best of the Twin Ports against the best of the Iron Range. It’s not lacking in star power, either. Proctor/Hermantown is deep with the likes of senior forward Nya Sieger (21-30—50) and junior forward Izy Fairchild (28-14—42). The Lightning counters with sophomore forward Mercury Bischoff (49-25—74) and senior forward/center Kalle Reed (17-28—45). Let the sparks fly.

Rock Ridge at Hibbing/Chisholm

7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10

This contest in Hibbing will be a rematch of their opener Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the Eveleth Hippodrome. Rock Ridge has a new coach in former Minnesota Duluth goalie Paddy (Sautter) Elsmore. Hibbing/Chisholm has cagey veteran Pete Hyduke, who is approaching a half-century of coaching. Oh, and Hyduke recently got elected mayor of Hibbing.

“Moving forward I have to really keep a good schedule,” Hyduke said. “I still love every minute of coaching. Working with kids really keeps you young at heart. I also have a very understanding wife and my daughter Kristen is one of my assistants. It’s really been a family affair.”


Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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