Girls hockey: Northfield salutes program-building seniors

By Nick Gerhardt

Northfield saluted its senior class before Tuesday’s game against Rochester Mayo at Northfield Ice Arena. It’s a senior class that leaves a legacy for the Raiders.

Izzy Stephes, Annaliese Walker, Abbi Sparks, Grace McCoshen, Emerson Garlie, Rita Langford and Ayla Puppe helped lead Northfield to a state tournament appearance two years ago and they’re trying to do so again this year. 

Against the Spartans, the Class 2A No. 5-ranked Raiders extended their winning streak to 19 games with a 6-0 victory. Puppe scored four times and further cemented her spot as the state’s top goal scorer with 47 on the season. Stephes added a first period goal and Garlie scored in the second period. Their line accounted for all six goals.

“They’ve been incredible,” Northfield head coach Paige Haley said. “Not only are they a talented group, they’re a good group with character. Even the kids that aren’t in the limelight as much, they’re good role players, they’re good teammates. It’s been a really fun group to coach.”

The Raiders made their first state tournament appearance in 2016 and again in 2017 as a member of Class A. Northfield moved up to Class 2A the next season and earned its third trip to state in 2022. As the program has seen more success, interest in the game has increased. The Cannon River Hockey Association has six teams, including two at the 10-and-under level.

“We’ve had a lot of participation and they’re part of that,” Haley said. “The last few years have been the best teams that have been in Northfield. It encourages young girls to play and we’ve got kids who are continuing to play after high school.”

The 19-game winning streak is a school record and the Raiders are one win away from matching last year’s school record of 20 victories in a season and have six more regular season contests.

“They really have set a standard of what it means to play for this program and how to have a winning culture,” Haley said.

Stephes provided the first goal of the game at 5 minutes, 51 seconds of the period when Puppe found her open on the back door of the goal for a tap-in goal. 

Puppe notched her first goal of the game at 9:19 with Garlie picking up an assist for a 2-0 lead. She added a second goal at 12:51 of the first period on the power play for a 3-0 advantage. 

Garlie got a goal of her own 2:59 into the second period with McCoshen and Puppe assisting to make it 4-0.

Puppe scored again at 10:35 of the period to make it 5-0 and added a shorthanded goal at 10:54 of the third period for a 6-0 lead.

Northfield (19-0, 9-0 Big 9) outshot Rochester Mayo (6-8-2, 5-4-1 Big 9) 46-10. Raiders goaltender Macy Mueller stopped all 10 shots to record her seventh shutout of the season.

Northfield faces Mankato East at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Mankato.