NEW ULM - For the first half of Saturday's non-conference girls' hockey game between New Ulm and Dodge County, there was very little separating the two teams in a neck-and-neck thriller.
The Wildcats managed to take control of the game for good with three goals in the space of a minute and a half midway through the second period, after which they coasted to an 8-2 victory at New Ulm Civic Center.
"I think they came out really strong, and we were kind of expecting it," New Ulm junior Morgan Schaefer said. "But they had a huge roster, and after a while we kind of just got worn down."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Kali Denn (9) is tripped by Emily Gunderson of Dodge County during the second period Saturday at the New Um Civic Center. Gunderson received a penalty for tripping and Denn was injured as a result of the play.
The first period saw a number of clutch saves by Eagles goaltender Bailey Landreville. However, after Landreville stopped a shot by Wildcat Dana Rasmussen on a breakaway, Dodge County sophomore Jacie Hoehn put in the rebound to give the visitors a 1-0 lead 4:15 into the contest.
New Ulm freshman Brittany Denn leveled the score at 1-1 with 5:56 remaining in the first period. Denn scored after blocking a long-range shot attempt by the Wildcats, after which the puck rebounded down the ice, where Denn caught up to it and finished the breakaway with a shot from the right-hand side that sailed past goaltender Anna Hunter into the upper-left corner of the net.
Dodge County threatened to take the lead in the closing minutes of the first period, but time after time the Wildcats were denied by Landreville.
"She's definitely come a long way," New Ulm head coach Angie Zeig said of Landreville. "Last year she didn't play as much time in net, but this year just her work ethic and putting herself out there and making the key saves, controlling her rebounds, has been huge for us. She's been in a number of games already that have been high-intensity, key games needing to make the big saves and she comes through it."
The Eagles came out strong in the second period, taking a 2-1 lead just 29 seconds into the period on a goal by Schaefer.
Schaefer's shot originally appeared to have been stopped by Hunter, but the puck maintained enough momentum to continue into the net.
"I was pretty excited, because I wasn't really expecting it to go in," Schaefer said. "The goalie I guess was off her angle a bit, it just made that little bit of [space]."
New Ulm's only lead of the contest was short lived. The Wildcats tied the game at 2-2 just 53 seconds later when Bella Wagner scored after receiving a pass from Brede Postier right in front of the New Ulm net.
Dodge County took the lead for good on an unassisted goal by Lydia Wagner with 8:56 remaining in the second period. Darby Dodds added an unassisted goal just eight seconds later to give the Wildcats a 4-2 advantage.
Lydia Wagner netted a power play goal with 7:22 left in the period (assists by Dodds and Emily Gunderson) to add to Dodge County's scoring frenzy and increase the lead to 5-2.
New Ulm junior Kali Denn appeared on track to make up one of the goals when she earned a breakaway with 5:49 left in the period, but she was tripped by Gunderson and was sent crashing to the ice, after which she left the game for good with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
"With Kali getting hurt, it kind of fired us up," Schaefer said. "We tried our best without her, but we only have so many 'D,' and without her it was kind of a loss."
Since Denn had yet to begin her shooting motion, the penalty resulted in a power play rather than a penalty shot, during which the Eagles failed to score. New Ulm was 0-for-6 on power plays in the contest.
Rasmussen scored a tap-in goal on a pass from Katie Robinson with 0:57 remaining in the second period to give the Wildcats a 6-2 lead entering the third period.
"I think a big difference is just that they have 19 skaters, we were consistently running two lines and five 'D' until Kali got hurt," Zeig said. "It was just primarily we ended up running out of gas. We did play right with them in the first period and a good chunk of the second period, then they got a couple of them quick right in a row, and that can be a little bit of a downer. We just weren't able to recover from it."
Dodds scored with 13:07 left in the third period (Gunderson assist) and Lydia Wagner completed her hat trick with an unassisted goal 12 seconds later to give the game its final score.
The Eagles played strong hockey over the final stretch of the game, but by then it was too late to produce a comeback.
"In the third period we just tried to play our game," Schaefer said. "That's all we could do. We're pretty happy, because to keep up with this kind of team, we played pretty well."
Julia Schaefer played the final 13:07 in net for the Eagles.
The Wildcats finished with 35 shots on goal in the game compared to 19 shots on goal for New Ulm.
The Eagles (6-2) will look to return to their winning ways when they travel to Waseca on Tuesday for a South Central Conference match-up.
New Ulm should be well prepared for the game after facing a team the caliber of Dodge County.
"We haven't played a team at this level of competition for that consistently long, so I thought it was great of us to be able to play a period and a half, and that's really when the fatigue started setting in," Zeig said. "But the girls played their hearts out, they played well. They know that they need to keep pushing themselves to keep competing with teams like this, because at the end of the season we have quite a few teams similar to this on our schedule."