REDWOOD FALLS - It wasn't easy, but the New Ulm girl's hockey team locked up yet another state tournament trip with a 2-1 win against Luverne in the Section 3A tournament on Thursday.
It's the fifth-straight state tournament for the Eagles (18-7), who await the announcement of their Wednesday tournament opponent at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Ali Beltz and Lexie Weiss scored New Ulm's goals and Makayla Sterrett scored for Luverne.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Members of the New Ulm girls hockey team celebrate after defeating Luverne in the Section 3A Championship game Thursday in Redwood Falls.
The Eagles, who scored 14 goals against Fairmont on Tuesday, ran into a much tougher opponent on Thursday and it showed.
"I knew it was going to be a lot tighter than it was on Tuesday," New Ulm coach Kristen Faber said. "They've got a good squad, I think we played a solid game. They were getting some good opportunities in the third period and they scored that one goal late in the third, but we pulled it off."
Beltz opened New Ulm's scoring when she scored on a shot that floated over Luverne goalie Emilie Bartels' glove.
"I was just kind of in the moment, I was just trying to do whatever I could," Beltz said.
The Eagle defense limited the Luverne scoring chances all night. When the Cardinals did get a shot off, Julia Schaefer was there to deny them.
"Julia, she had a great game," Faber said. "She kept us in there. They didn't have a whole lot of shots in the first and second [period], but the saves that she did have were key. She had a good game, but everyone else had a good game."
Schaefer said she had plenty of nerves in the game.
"It definitely was scary, it was a really close game," Schaefer said. "I knew I had to be ready for it, I knew they're going to come out strong and that we had a target on our back."
The Eagles and Cardinals played a scoreless second period in which both had several scoring chances but were unable to capitalize.
New Ulm got a huge insurance goal in the third period when Lexie Weiss scored to make it 2-0. Weiss' goal came with 11:45 left in the game and was assisted by Morgan Schaefer and Brook Schugel.
Luverne finally got on the board with 4:28 left and pulled the goalie with 45 seconds left, getting several shots off before time expired.
In the end, the defense was key for the Eagles.
"We said before the game that if we don't play defense, we're not going to score a goal," senior Kali Denn said.
New Ulm will find out who it plays when the teams are seeded and drawn this weekend.