Girls hockey: River Lakes Stars advance to Section 6A final

Sophia Hess scores both goals in River Lakes’ 2-1 win over Willmar Cardinals

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River Lakes sophomore captain Sophia Hess fires a shot on a breakaway against Willmar on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at Willmar Civic Center Arena.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Sophia Hess propelled No. 3 River Lakes to a victory against No. 2 Willmar on Tuesday to help the Stars advance to the Section 6A final.

The streaking Stars beat every team ranked above them on their path to a first girls state championship.
The Warriors earn a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Orono to bring the girls program its fourth state title
Defending state champion Warroad is headed back to the Class A state championship game
The Cougars tied things up late in the third period but Avar scores for the Skippers with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

Hess, a sophomore forward and captain, buried both of River Lakes’ goals en route to a 2-1 win at Willmar Civic Center Arena.

“Sophia has an electric shot and she’s a great leader by example,” River Lakes head coach Andrew Marod said. “She has a positive attitude and is always picking up her teammates.”

River Lakes (10-16-1) has won three consecutive games and faces Fergus Falls at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Section 6A final at Alexandria’s Runestone Community Center. The Otters beat Breckenridge/Wahpeton 9-0 in the other 6A semifinal.

When Marod entered the River Lakes locker room following the win, he said one word to his Stars: resilience. It’s a word he believes has been a focal point of the team’s season.


River Lakes defeats Willmar to advance to the Section 6A final against Fergus Falls.

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Willmar sophomore forward Lauren Eilers fires a shot on a breakaway with River Lakes junior Aubree McDonagh attempting to disrupt her attempt on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at Willmar Civic Center Arena.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

“I am so proud of this group and I am so excited for this group,” Marod said. “They have battled in every game this season and they are finally being rewarded.”

River Lakes sophomore goaltender and captain Kaydence Roeske backstopped the Stars between the pipes. She made 30 saves on 31 shots faced.

“Kaydence is just a competitor. She will fight to the end and is our model for resilience,” Marod said. “No matter the atmosphere she will show up and we rely on her. She is the foundation of our team.”

Hess broke the game open when she fired a sizzling shot from the slot into the left side of the net at 16:04 of the second period to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

Similarly to her first goal, Hess found herself open in the slot and made no mistake, finding the back of the net to give the Stars a 2-1 lead at 8:02 of the third period.

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River Lakes sophomore goaltender and captain Kaydence Roeske tracks the puck against Willmar on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at Willmar Civic Center Arena.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

Hess’ game-winning tally came 2:01 after Willmar sophomore forward Gretchen Volk knotted the contest at 1-1.

“I thought we played pretty well. Again, we just couldn’t beat Roeske,” Cardinals head coach Eric Setrum said. “We had two goals waved off in the third period — one for being in the crease and one because of a quick whistle.”


The Cardinals finish their 2022-23 campaign with a 14-12-1 overall record.

“Overall. It was a good year,” Setrum said. “I feel like we got better throughout the year. We had some ups and downs. I told the girls they have to hold their heads high.”

Setrum was not short on mentioning the contributions his two seniors made on his program.

“Halle Mortensen and Sam Poe — they did a great job all year and they had great careers,” Setrum said. “It’s everything a coach could ask for.”

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Willmar junior center Chloe Lownsbury carries the puck up the ice against River Lakes on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at Willmar Civic Center Arena.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune


River Lakes 2, Willmar 1

River Lakes (10-16-1)          0     1     1 — 2
Willmar (14-12-1)                 0     0     1 — 1

FIRST PERIOD –  No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD –  (1) RL: Sophia Hess (unassisted), 16:04.
THIRD PERIOD – (2) W: Gretchen Volk (Makenna Larson) 6:01 … (3) RL: Hess (unassisted), 8:02.
GOALIE SAVES/SHOTS – River Lakes: Kaydence Roeske 30/31 … Willmar: Erin Eilers 20/22

Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in May 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
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