REMATCH REPEAT: Owatonna claims Big 9 title for second straight year

Keira Hauskins cruises in for a goal. photo credit Jim Wellbrock

By Nick Gerhardt

For the second straight year Northfield and Owatonna met in the regular season finale to decide the Big 9 Conference title and once again the Huskies claimed the conference crown with a 4-2 victory Saturday at Northfield Ice Arena, though the Raiders wouldn’t mind history repeating itself in the postseason. 

Last season, Northfield got a rematch against Owatonna in the Section 1AA semifinals and came away with a 4-1 victory. The Raiders will have to try for that again.

“It’s not the outcome we wanted but a conference title doesn’t mean a section title,” Northfield junior forward Ayla Puppe said.

In a charged rivalry meeting that pitted former Northfield standout forward Ava Stanchina against the Raiders and the Huskies owning a 5-4 overtime victory against the Raiders Jan. 12 in Owatonna where Northfield squandered a 4-0 lead, emotions ran high early. 

“It’s just an emotional game when you play teams like Owatonna, a rival in your conference,” Raiders head coach Paige Haley said. “We had a couple of weird puck bounces.”

Stanchina transferred to Owatonna after her sophomore year at Northfield primarily to play soccer for the Huskies. Stanchina will play collegiately at North Dakota State University next year. On the ice, she entered the game with 21 goals and 24 assists for Owatonna.

Twenty-three seconds into the game, the Class 2A No. 16-ranked Raiders, who entered the game tied with Owatonna with 32 points in the conference, took a tripping penalty and 36 seconds later Owatonna senior defender Abby Vetsch fired a shot from the point over the glove-side shoulder of Northfield goalie Macy Mueller for a power-play goal and a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game. Stanchina and junior forward Samantha Bogen picked up assists on the goal.

The Raiders (18-7, 9-2 Big 9) found an equalizer with 2:06 left in the period when sophomore defender Keira Hauskins went the length of the ice on a rush to score an unassisted goal and make it 1-1.

Stanchina put the Huskies (18-6, 12-1 Big 9) up 2-1 with a deflected goal 3:06 into the second period. A shot ricocheted off Northfield junior defender Grace McCoshen’s stick and into the net.

Trailing 2-0, the Raiders started to press and turned the puck over at the Owatonna blue line that led to a breakaway for Huskies sophomore forward Averi Vetch. Vetch got tripped on her way to the goal and got awarded a penalty shot, which she converted with a blocker-side shot to make it 3-1 at the 6:14 mark of the period.

In the third period, the Huskies extended the lead to 4-1 with Bogen knocking in a rebound in front of an open net.

Northfield got a goal back with 9:55 left to play with a power-play goal from junior forward Isabelle Stephes who stuffed in a rebound stick-side with Stanchina serving her third of four penalties of the game to make it 4-2.

Owatonna defended well and shut down shooting lanes for Puppe, who was held scoreless for just the third time this season. Her 48 goals this season rank second in the state and Haley moved her around the ice, putting her at the point during faceoffs and having her trail behind the defense at other times, to help create space for her.

“When I have the puck I feel a lot of pressure on me and I don’t have as much time and space as I would like to have,” Puppe said. “They definitely had a bunch of layers of blockers so it’s hard to find a shot.”

The Raiders pulled Mueller with 2:07 left to play for an extra attacker but couldn’t inch any closer.

Huskies junior goaltender Mikayla Wilker stopped 29 shots in the win while Owatonna finished with 24 shots.

The loss likely drops Northfield to the No. 4 seed for the Section 1AA tournament and a meeting with Farmington Wednesday at Northfield Ice Arena. The Raiders defeated the Tigers 2-0 Dec. 29 in Farmington. The Huskies likely will get the No. 3 seed and face sixth-seeded Rochester Century. No. 10-ranked Lakeville South will probably earn the No. 1 seed and receive a first-round bye. No. 14-ranked Lakeville North will likely get the No. 2 seed and play Rochester Mayo. Section seeding takes place Sunday.

Keira Hauskins went the length of the ice on a rush to score an unassisted goal and make it 1-1.
power-play goal from junior forward Isabelle Stephes who stuffs in a goal