By Nick Gerhardt
Orono forced Northfield to play catchup all afternoon Saturday at Northfield Ice Arena and the Raiders never caught up in a 6-5 overtime loss that snapped a four-game winning streak.
The Spartans (10-3-3, 3-0 Metro West), ranked No. 5 in Class A by Let’s Play Hockey, stormed into Northfield, the No. 16-ranked team in Class 2A, in the first period, outshooting the Raiders 15-4, but the period ended in a 2-2 draw as Northfield found a response to each Orono goal.
Spartans ninth-grade forward Maddy Kimbrel opened the scoring with a power-play goal 5 minutes, 25 seconds into the game and the Raiders countered with a power-play goal from Isabelle Stephes at 12:11 to make it 1-1.
Junior defender Grace Bickett scored another power-play goal with 1:20 left in the period with an assist from Kimbrel to put Orono, which finished third in the Class A state tournament last season, up 2-1, but Northfield eighth-grade forward Emma Peroutka tied the game with 55 seconds left off an assist from junior forward Emerson Garlie to tie the game 2-2, which felt like a relief for the Raiders.
“Definitely our worst period of the three,” Northfield head coach Paige Hailey said. What’s tough about playing in the Big 9 and winning a game two days ago 10-2 [against Rochester Century/John Marshall], the pace of that game is a little slow. No matter how much you warn them, they still have to figure that out. It took us about half the first period to figure out the pace.”
The Spartans collected a turnover inside the Raiders zone after two Northfield skaters fell down to pull ahead 3-2 when sophomore forward Kali Schmidt scored on a two-on-one just 50 seconds into the period.
Sophomore forward Zoe Lopez scored the first of her two goals just a minute later off a rebound with an assist from senior forward Josie Raiche to put Orono up 4-2 at the time.
The Raiders (11-5, 5-0 Big 9) went to work and put together a period where they outshot the Spartans 13-9. Ayla Puppe scored her first goal of the game following a faceoff at 4:31 of the period to make it a 4-3 game.
Puppe tied the game 4-4 with a goal on an assist from Garlie at 7:07 of the period on a snipe that glanced the pipe before going in.
Northfield gave up a goal with 1:51 remaining in the period when junior forward Alexa Niccum scored for Orono with an assist from sophomore defender Alexa Paulsen for a 5-4 lead.
Peroukta scored her second goal of the game in the third period off a rebound she collected at the back post with 7:49 remaining in the game with Garlie and Puppe assisting to make it 5-5.
It stayed that way until overtime when Lopez got free to score a top shelf game-winning goal 1:38 into overtime.
“I just told the girls that they basically had to respond the whole time they were playing and they did that,” Hailey said. “They literally did everything they possibly could and it’s OK. That team is good.”
Orono outshot the Raiders 34-21 with sophomore goalie Macy Mueller stopping 28 shots for Northfield, two days after facing five shots in a 10-2 victory.
The Raiders will face Owatonna (8-5, 5-1 Big 9) Thursday at 7:15 p.m. at Northfield Ice Arena in a pivotal section and conference meeting.