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Prep girls hockey: Mirage topple Marshall in Section 7A final

VIRGINIA -- Proctor-Hermantown sophomore Ella Anick didn't remember much from the Section 7A girls hockey championship on Wednesday night at Miners Memorial Building.

Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.comProctor-Hermantown celebrates after winning the Section 7A championship 3-1 over Duluth Marshall on Wednesday at Miners Memorial Building in Virginia.
Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com Proctor-Hermantown celebrates after winning the Section 7A championship 3-1 over Duluth Marshall on Wednesday at Miners Memorial Building in Virginia.

VIRGINIA - Proctor-Hermantown sophomore Ella Anick didn't remember much from the Section 7A girls hockey championship on Wednesday night at Miners Memorial Building.

"I don't know, it's just a blur to me, to be honest," she said. "It was just going so fast."

The one thing Anick will never forget is who won.

Anick had a hand in all three goals to lead the Mirage to a 3-1 victory over Duluth Marshall as the defending section champions earned a return trip to the state tournament. It was a crazy game, with four 5-on-3s and all four goals coming via power plays, including three on 5-on-3s.

"This game had everything," Proctor-Hermantown coach Glen Gilderman said.

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Proctor-Hermantown will take it. The Mirage (18-7-3) play Feb. 20 in the Class A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul against an opponent to be determined Saturday morning during a coaches' conference call.

"You want them to play aggressively, never dirty," Gilderman said of the eight penalties between the teams. "You don't ever want to tell kids not to play full blast."

Top-seeded Proctor-Hermantown had the early advantage in shots on goal before Duluth Marshall's Victoria Thorson scored with a nice shot from the left circle on a 5-on-3 to put the second-seeded Hilltoppers (19-9) ahead 1-0 after the first period.

"One of the hardest parts about getting a penalty is the momentum shifts," Mirage coach Glen Gilderman said. "We started to scramble a little bit, but I felt pretty good getting out of that first period only being down 1-0. It gave us a chance to settle down."

Proctor-Hermantown had a 5-on-3 of its own in the second period, and the Mirage took advantage with goals by super sophomore Alyssa Watkins and Braelyn Sathers, with Anick, another part of the Mirage's dynamic sophomore class, assisting on both.

"We love those 5-on-3s, but you still have to execute them," Anick said.

Then Anick capped it off with an unassisted power-play goal, this kind of the 5-on-4 variety.

It as pretty of a play as you will see in Northland girls hockey, with Anick intercepting the puck after leaving the defensive zone, skating down the right side, cutting in toward the slot, appearing to do a pirouette around a defender and getting a low shot past Marshall sophomore goalie Charlesa Prior.

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"I just saw a lane and I took it and tried to get it past the goalie," Anick said. "I don't know beyond that. It all happened so fast.

"I think I played with more heart this game and tried to give it all I had for this game. I just try to stay out of my head, because if you start thinking too much, you stop moving your feet, and if you stop moving your feet, you're not moving the puck."

Based on that play, it's hard to believe Anick plays defense.

"That's the best I've ever seen her play," Gilderman said, matter of factly.

Gilderman also said that wasn't the best he's seen the Mirage play, making them a potentially scary state tournament opponent. It will be their fifth state tournament appearance and fourth since 2014, while Marshall was seeking its first.

For the Hilltoppers, a banner year under first-year head coach Stephanie Erickson, came to a close. They came in having only given up seven goals in the previous 10 games.

Erickson, a Warroad, Minn., native who is expecting her first child in late March, said that was just one thing that helped her bond with a new team.

"You never prepare for a loss like this, because you never expect it, but we appreciated all their hard work," Erickson said. "We struggled with some simple things, and definitely got caught on our penalty kill, we had a rough time with that, but I'm really proud of them. They said this was the closest they've ever been as a team."

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He said it

The Mirage would have preferred having the game moved closer to home, as the teams are just miles away from each other, but it stayed at Miners Memorial Building, that historic rink with a press box on one end that looks like Darth Vader's helmet.

"We haven't always played well here, but that's OK," Gilderman said, smiling. "We got the Virginia monkey off our backs last year."

Duluth Marshall 1-0-0-1
Proctor-Herm. 0-3-0-3

First period - 1. DM, Victoria Thorson (Maren Friday, Caitlin Breen), 11:46 (pp).
Second period - 2. PH, Alyssa Watkins (Ella Anick), 6:33 (pp); 3. PH, Braelyn Sathers (Anick), 8:04 (pp); 4. PH, Anick, 9:26 (pp).
Third period - No scoring.
Saves - Charlesa Prior, DM, 29; Ryan Gray, PH, 24.

Related Topics: GIRLS HOCKEY
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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