High School Girls Hockey: Late goals key Cards
Nina Dawson scores twice in the third period in Willmar’s 3-1 win over Stars
PAYNESVILLE — Willmar and River Lakes played to a tie through two periods on Saturday night before Nina Dawson broke the game open.
The junior forward scored a pair of goals in the third period to lift the Cardinals to a 3-1 Central Lakes Conference victory from the Koronis Arena.
"It's so amazing," Dawson said. "This is all we've been talking about; River Lakes, River Lakes. They are one of our rivals, they've always been, so I'm super excited for us."
Willmar earned a regular-season sweep over River Lakes. The Cardinals defeated the Stars 3-2 on Feb. 16 in Willmar.
The Cardinals improve to 5-1-1 in conference play and 9-5-1 overall. The team has won back-to-back games after being outscored 14-0 in the two games prior.
“They did a great job,” Willmar head coach Eric Setrum said. “We knew we had to do our job in the (defensive) zone. They did a good job, they bought in. We made good decisions, didn’t retaliate when chippy stuff started a little bit and really came through. We had a tough little road here, but we turned it around the other day in Marshall and continued it today.”
Dawson delivered the game-winner moments after the puck was dropped to begin the third.
Collecting the puck deep in her defensive zone, the junior forward skated along the left boards and raced past multiple Stars defenders before completing her journey up the length of ice with a score by ninth-grade goaltender Kaydence Roeske to make it 2-1.
“After skating it all the way up, I was so exhausted,” Dawson said. “I just took a shot, looked up and it was in the net.”
Dawson added another splendid individual effort midway through the period. She darted past a River Lakes defender to win a chase for a loose puck entering the offensive zone before sharply cutting toward the net and beating Roeske with a backhand shot.
“I saw the puck on its own just floating up the ice and I was like: ‘I got to go for that,’” Dawson recalled. “I was super tired and was actually about to change, but I just went for it.”
Following a scoreless opening period, Willmar opened the scoring when senior forward Madison Garberding snuck behind the Stars defense for a breakaway to make it 1-0.
River Lakes tied the game six minutes into the second. Shortly after killing off a penalty, the home team equalized the score thanks to a power-play goal in front of the net by junior forward Jordyn Bebus.
While special teams got the Stars back into the game in the second, they could not capitalize with it late. River Lakes had a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 2:30 of regulation after Roeske from net and drawing a Willmar penalty, but the team could not close the gap.
“I think this just shows that we need to show up for all three periods,” Stars co-head coach Alexis Klatt said. “The girls fell a little short tonight. But that’s alright, we still have a little bit of the season left and some time to come back.”
Halle Mortensen got the win in net for the Cardinals and improved this season to 8-5-1.
“Halle settled in, did a great job and controlled the puck when she could,” Setrum said. “She’s a big-game player, too. She’s come up with some real big games for us and we’re going to need her all the way down to the end.”
River Lakes 1
Willmar (9-5-1) 0 1 2 — 3
River Lakes (9-5-2) 0 1 0 — 1