By Nick Gerhardt
Early in the second period freshman Northfield defender Mia Miller sweated out a penalty with her team clinging to a one-goal lead.
A little more than a minute later after exiting the penalty box, she and the fourth-seeded Raiders had little to worry about.
Miller scored what proved to be the game-winning goal 7 minutes, 33 seconds into the second period to put Northfield (19-7) ahead 2-0 en route to a 5-1 victory over Farmington in the opening round of the Section 1AA playoffs at Northfield Ice Arena.
Miller got whistled for a tripping penalty just 4:17 into the second period following a turnover in their own defensive zone. The penalty came seconds after the fifth-seeded Tigers (9-17) just missed tying the game.
“My heart was beating fast in the penalty box,” Miller said.
Miller had another reason for her heart to beat fast after she collected a loose puck at the right circle and sent a shot into the upper right corner of the goal for a 2-0 lead. Eighth-grade forward Emma Peroutka and sophomore defender Keira Hauskins assisted on the goal.
Miller later got called for a hooking penalty in the period to continue the rollercoaster. But sophomore goaltender Macy Mueller stood tall to turn away 13 Farmington shots in the period.
Mueller rose to the occasion to stop 29 shots of the 30 she faced after she surrendered seven goals in the last two regular season games. Prior to those two games, she gave up just two goals in six games with four shutouts.
“Macy seems to really like those South Suburban games,” Northfield head coach Paige Haley said. “I feel like she has a different level of focus and energy for these games.”
Mueller feels comfortable facing South Suburban Conference teams after playing with Apple Valley her eighth-grade season where the Eagles reached the Section 3AA title game.
“I know a lot of the girls from any South Suburban team,” Mueller said. “I have a lot of experience playing them.”
She’ll get a crack at another South Suburban foe Saturday when No. 17-ranked Northfield faces top-seeded and No. 12-ranked Lakeville South (21-4) at 7 p.m. in Lakeville. Mueller faced the Cougars twice as an eighth-grader, one an 8-3 loss and the other a 3-2 loss where she made 34 saves.
Peroutka put the Raiders up 1-0 with a goal at 6:24 of the first period when she put home a rebound following a shot from junior center Ayla Puppe, who won a faceoff clean in the Tigers’ zone and got a shot off. Peroutka later assisted on one of Emerson Garlie’s two empty-net goals in the third period.
Puppe pushed the lead to 3-0 at 12:35 of the third period on a rush where she crossed in front of the net and found space to get a shot off. Garlie assisted on the goal that gave Northfield some breathing room.
Farmington pulled sophomore goaltender Addison Moudry with 4:12 left to play and got a goal from junior forward Morgan Mitchell with 3:34 left to play to make it a 3-1 game after she scored on a rebound on a shot from senior defender Madison Kadrlik from the point. Senior forward MaKenna Kadrlik also assisted on the goal.
Garlie struck for her first empty-net goal with 2:34 to play with Puppe and Peroutka picking up assists. She added another empty-net goal with 1:23 left with assists from Miller and Mueller for the 5-1 final.
Northfield got outshot 30-22 in the game but also killed three penalties in the game.
“We did a good job of not letting those calls completely throw us off,” Haley said. “Once we got through that, I think that gave the girls an extra push.”
In other quarterfinal games, second-seeded Lakeville North defeated Rochester Mayo 14-0 and third-seeded Owatonna advanced with an 8-2 win over Rochester Century/John Marshall.