Willmar, Hutch meet for berth in state girls hockey tourney berth
ST. PETER -- Willmar squeezed by Hutchinson 5-4, in overtime, on Dec. 10. Indications point to another tight, tense tilt when the squads meet this evening in St. Peter to decide the Section 2A champion.
No. 3-seed Hutchinson (11-15) ousted No. 2 Mankato West (17-9) 4-3 on Saturday in Mankato.
Hutchinson has nine players back from last year's section championship team.
Players to watch for the Tigers include Sara Carlson and Fallon Macemon, who rank fourth and sixth, respectively, on the Tigers' all-time points leaderboard. Carlson had a hat trick in the semifinals.
No. 1 seed Willmar (12-11-2) handled No. 4 Mankato East 5-2 in the semifinals of the six-team section.
The Cardinals are seeking their first state tournament trip since the 2002-03 season when they made their second straight appearance. Back then, each section had more teams than they do now, but there were only four sections, so only four teams advanced to the state tournament.
"It's going to be a dogfight," said Willmar coach Lee Wierschem, "Sara Carlson is one of the most skilled players we'll see all year, so we've got to know where she's at, along with her linemate Claire Cripps. They'll skate every other shift."
Willmar skates three lines. As the top seed, the Cardinals can send out their line last, an important advantage when matching lines.
"I like our balance," said Wierschem. "We're getting scoring from a lot of places."
Willmar has been without No. 2 scorer Erin Sheehan since Feb. 4 when the senior forward sustained an injury at Fergus Falls. She sat out practice Monday and Tuesday and is listed as day-to-day.