NEW ULM - If the New Ulm girls hockey team was nervous going into Friday's Section 3A championship game against Luverne, the Eagles didn't show it.
New Ulm scored just 21 seconds into the game and took the rubber match of the two teams with a 3-1 win over the Cardinals at Redwood Valley. The Eagles (12-10-3) advance to the Class A State Tournament for the third straight year, all three times beating Luverne to get there.
The Eagles will find out who they play Saturday morning once all of the teams are determined and seeded for the tournament. They will play sometime on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Members of the New Ulm Eagles girls hockey team celebrate after defeating Luverne in the Section 3A championship game Friday in Redwood Falls.
For more photos of this event, go to cu.nujournal.com
Erika Ries scored New Ulm's first two goals and both of them came in the first period to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead after one period. The eighth-grader wasn't a part of the past two state tournament trips, so she was obviously excited about her first chance to play at Xcel.
"It's great, we split with them and it was great to come in an win and now we're going to state."
Ries' first goal of the game broke any nerves the Eagles had when she skated in and put a shot past Luverne goalie Autumn Wenzel to put the Eagles up 1-0.
"It went off my shin pad and I just went off on a breakaway and got the goal," Ries said.
The Cardinals tied the game at 1-1 at the 4:03 mark after Lauren Christensen put a shot past New Ulm goalie Shalyn Salonek.
But Ries gave the Eagles the advantage later when she took a shot from the side of the net that somehow hit the skate off Wenzel and went in the back of the net with 2:21 left in the first period.
Ries said it was a big advantage for the Eagles to go into the break with a lead.
"It was awesome because we went into the break and we came out strong where they were losing it," Ries said. "I was just trying to get it on the net and it went off her skate and it went in."
The teams skated to a scoreless second period and the Eagles got an insurance goal in the third period. Alexa Weiss fired a long-range shot that found the back of the net with 11:08 left in the third period. Ries later had a chance for the hat trick on the breakaway with 1:40 to go, but her shot was denied.
Salonek finished the game with 10 saves. The Eagles will see who they play later today and Ries is excited for the chance to play at the state's biggest and most well-known hockey arena on Wednesday.
"It's great, I always looked forward to going, hoping to go, and now I finally get the chance to," Ries said.