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Willmar one win from state berth

Willmar's Becca Freese, front, scores on a snap shot against Mankato East goalie Melany Anderson in the third period Saturday at the Civic Center. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

WILLMAR -- It's on to St. Peter for the Willmar Cardinals girls hockey team after ousting Mankato East/Loyola from the Section 2A Tournament picture 5-2 on Saturday.

"This was the last of our 11 goals that we put on the sheet at the beginning of the season," explained Meckenzie Dahle, one of five seniors celebrating after their final game at home. "Just now we added a 12th goal -- to get to state."

Willmar (12-11-2) meets No. 3 Hutchinson at Gustavus Adolphus College at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the championship. Hutchinson upset No. 2 Mankato West 4-3 on Saturday.

The state tournament is Feb. 24-27 in St. Paul.

The Cardinals beat the young Cougars (9-16) for the second time. The key was a three-goal second frame that put the top seed up 4-1.

Five players scored for Willmar: Carlie Freese, Jennie Mattison, Brooke Mayer, Kayte Cole and Rebecca Freese. Ali Sing had two assists.

East had a slight edge in shots, 28-26.

"Our goalie, Baylie Young, was rock solid," said coach Lee Wierschem. "She made some big saves and credit to the defense for clearing out (the Cougar forwards), so she got a good look at the puck."

East, a senior-less squad with a bright future, scored first and last on goals by seventh-grader Rebekah Kolstad and freshman Savannah Quandt.

Carlie Freese tied the game 1-1 at 9:57 of the first. Mattison gave Willmar its first lead on a slapper from the left point at 3:15 of the second, a power play. Mayer, a freshman, made it 3-1 and then Kayte Cole, off a slick pass from Sing on a 2-on-2 break, made it 4-1.

"We started a little slow but our forecheck just kept getting stronger bottling them up," said Wierschem.

Willmar is now one win away from its third state trip and first since 2003.

Mankato E./Loyola (9-16) 1 0 1 -- 2

Willmar (11-11-2) 1 3 1 -- 5

FIRST PERIOD - MEL: Rebekah Kolstad (unassisted) 8:57 ... Wil: Carlie Freese (Kylee Hulscher) 9:57

SECOND PERIOD - Wil: Jennie Mattison (Ali Sing) pp, 3:15 ... Wil: Brooke Mayer (C. Freese) 4:05 ... Wil: Kayte Cole (Sing) 13:49

THIRD PERIOD - Wil: Becca Freese (Mayer, Meckenzie Dahle) 2:26 ... MEL: Savannah Quandt (Kelsey Ekstedt) 2:56.

GOALIE SAVES - Mankato East/Loyola: Melany Anderson 21 ... Willmar: Baylie Young 26

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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