WILLMAR -- Willmar got off to a good start on the new season on Thursday night at the Civic Center.
Behind a hat track by Erin Sheehan, three assists by Chelsey Wierschem and a 15-stop night by freshman goalie Baylie Young, the Cardinals ousted St. Peter/LeSueur-Henderson/Montgomery-Lonsdale 5-1 in the Section 2A girls hockey playoffs.
"It's exciting to move on," said Willmar senior captain Taylor Sandberg. "We didn't have the best of seasons and you're always nervous before a playoff game because it could be your last."
Willmar's second win over the Bulldogs in three weeks puts them in the semifinals at Gustavus Adolphus College at 5 p.m. Saturday against top-seeded Mankato West.
The Scarlets nipped Willmar 7-6 on Dec. 13.
"We're similar," said Willmar Rick Dahle of the approaching match-up. "They also have an excellent first line with two great scorers but our second and third lines should have the advantage."
The Bulldogs (13-13) scored first when Brittany Pell punched a rebound past Young with the game four minutes old.
Sheehan and Carlie Freese then scored to put Willmar in front for good, 2-1. There was no scoring in the second before Willmar erupted with three goals 1:04 apart in the third period. Ali Sing rattled a Wierschem setup off the top pipe for a 3-1 lead and then Sheehan followed with two more, the last a wrister from the slot.
"We had a great effort and just wore them down in the third period," said Dahle.
Willmar 5, SPLHM 1
SPLHML (13-13) 1 0 0 -- 1
Willmar (8-18) 2 0 3 -- 5
FIRST PERIOD - SPL: Brittany Pell (Sydney Johnson) 4:04 ... Wil: Erin Sheehan (Kayte Cole) 6:14 ... Wil: Carlie Freese (Chelsey Wierschem) 9:36
SECOND PERIOD - No scoring
THIRD PERIOD - Wil: Ali Sing (Wierschem), Meckenzie Dahle) 6:20 ... Wil: Sheehan (Wierschem) 6:58 ... Wil: Sheehan (Ashley Hutton) 7:24
GOALIE SAVES - St. Peter/Le Sueur-Henderson/Montgomery-Lonsdale: Kirsten Shaughnessy 6-14-10-30 ... Willmar: Baylie Young 6-4-6-16