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Tribune file photo Former varsity back-up Maddie Sandberg, shown here deflecting a shot versus Austin on Nov. 24, is making the most of her senior season.

Willmar notebook: Making a section statement

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The Cardinal girls hockey is 1-6 in Central Lakes Conference games but 4-0 in Section 2A contests — a striking contrast that puts the team’s focus on the postseason.

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This evening Willmar plays at Mound Westonka, another section foe. The White Hawks started out 7-0, including an impressive 6-3 win over Alexandria, but have gone 2-7-1 since Dec. 11 for a 9-7-1 mark and a No. 12 QRF Minnesota Scores ranking.

Willmar (9-6) is rated No. 19 and coming off a two-week layoff.

Cardinals coach JaColby Anderson hopes his girls are ready.

The game will be played at the high school in Thaler Arena. Mound once was a quaint village at the extreme west end of Lake Minnetonka famous as home town of the Andrews Sisters (ask your grandparents) but now recognized as the summer home of Kim Kardashian’s ex Kris Humphries, according to Wikipedia.

“We need to bring the same intensity we had when we beat Mankato East,” the coach stated on Wednesday. “We will have to take care of the puck in front of Maddie and execute on the power play. Mound is averaging 3 or 4 penalties per game. They’re physical and not afraid to play hard-nose hockey.”

The 5-2 win over Mankato East/Loyola with Maddie Sandberg between the pipes is the highlight, so far, this season. The Cougars (12-4) enjoy a No. 12 QRF.

Sandberg, a senior, backed up now graduated Baylie Young for two seasons.

“I am not surprised to see Maddie play this well,” commented Anderson. “I’ve had high expectations of her since day one. Her teammates have a lot of confidence in her.  She may not be flashy but she has very good technique and plays with great discipline.”

The scoring has come from Shelby Schneider (12 goals-7 assists-19 points), Brooke Mayer (3-11-14) plus Anne Johnston and Miranda Roelofs, who have a combined 10 goals and 15 assists.

Sam Block (hamstring) and Brittney Serbus (shoulder) are both questionable for tonight. Anderson said both defensemen are eager to play but unless fully healed he won’t jeopardize their recovery with so many important games still ahead.

Boys hockey hosting Sartell

This is a big game tonight at the Cardinal Arena for the boys ice squad, also positioning for post-season play.

Willmar (7-5-1) is 3-3-1 in Section 6A and the Sabres 0-1-2. The Sabres 4-5-4 overall record reflects a 2-0-4 record in six overtime games.

Coach Dan Tollefson notes that this game takes on added import since these CLC teams won’t meet a second time until after the seed.

The Cardinals are 3-1 starting with the holiday tourney at Little Falls. The Cards beat Mound Westonka 3-2. Doug Runke’s (WHS ’01) White Hawks then turned around and beat Little Falls 2-0 two days later.

The coaches shuffled the lines post-Christmas: Josh Tinklenberg (1-2-3) centers Zech Streed (left wing, 11-8-19) and Hunter Mottinger (2-4-6); Buzzy Tollefson (5-7-12) centers Evan VanDenEinde (2-1-3) and Hunter Schneider (17-21-38); T.J. Mattison (1-2-3) centers Cole Hagen (3-1-4) and Austin Smith (1-0-1)/Joey Lee (3-1-4). Smith was elevated from the JV last week.

“We’re getting production from all three lines,” said Tollefson.

After ups and downs the first month, senior goalie Joey Benson has smoothed out and is playing at a near 3.0 goals-against clip the last four games. His season average is 3.8 with an 88.2 save percentage.

Tollefson looks for a close game that will say a lot about where the Cardinals are at the season’s mid-point. The Sabres are coached by Ryan Hacker, a former Alexandria standout who played college hockey at Denver.

Snow-cross back

Hall of Fame snowmobile driver Brian Nelson brings snowmobile racing back to Willmar on Saturday.

The races are free to spectators. The staging area is Robbins Island with the Lemans style course set up on both Willmar and Foot lakes.

The circuit debuted in December replacing the United States Cross-Country circuit which had disbanded in May after its director, Pete Mach, died of injuries from a snowmobile crash.

Nelson, who lives in Spicer, is viewed as savior of Upper Midwest snowmobile racing for filling the racing void.

“Cross-country snowmobile racing has been my life for more than 40 years,” he’s been quoted, “I owe a debt of gratitude to the people and circuits that provided races during those years.”

The inaugural race at Gonvick on Dec. 13 drew 280 entries and 220 drivers. Last weekend, at Detroit Lakes, drew 144 racers.

Media director Jim Urquhart expects near the latter number this weekend.

Willmar is not new to snow racing. Early in the century, there were several winters of ferocious jump racing on a closed circuit at the Civic Center and then at the fairgrounds.

Cross-country racing through the countryside were also held here and at New London.

Nelson made his enduring reputation in the 1970s as a top driver in the 500-mile enduros from Winnipeg to Minneapolis.

Weather wise, conditions look excellent for the hot-blooded machines, if not fans. The forecast calls for a high of 8 degrees Saturday enforced by a brisk north wind.

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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