Prep girls hockey playoff preview: Proctor-Hermantown puts egos on ice
Proctor-Hermantown girls hockey player Jillayne Gilbert said she would much rather set up a teammate for an easy goal than score herself. That's not just lip service. Gilbert has the stats to back it up. Gilbert, a senior right wing, has a career...
Proctor-Hermantown girls hockey player Jillayne Gilbert said she would much rather set up a teammate for an easy goal than score herself.
That’s not just lip service. Gilbert has the stats to back it up.
Gilbert, a senior right wing, has a career-high 60 points to lead the top-seeded and defending section champion Mirage (22-3) into the Section 7A playoffs, which begin Thursday. Those 60 points are the result of 21 goals and 39 assists, with the assists ranking fourth-best in the state, one spot behind Moose Lake Area sophomore Jessica Bird.
“I’ve never been one to be the goal scorer,” Gilbert said. “I feel better when my teammates score and I set them up. I’d rather be the playmaker.”
Gilbert is on a line that includes junior left wing Sophie McGovern (29-23-52) and sophomore center Callie Hoff (21-28-49), who transferred to Hermantown from Duluth East before the school year.
“That’s a line that gives other people problems,” said Mirage coach Glen Gilderman, whose team opens the 7A playoffs next Tuesday in a semifinal against either Moose Lake Area or Eveleth-Gilbert Area. “I know I wouldn’t want to coach against them.”
Gilbert said the key is their attitude.
“The line I’m on is for the team and is pretty selfless,” Gilbert said. “It’s easy to share the puck when all you want is success for the team. It’s just been fun. I don’t think people expected us to be quite this successful.”
The 22 wins are a program best and the Mirage are ranked ninth in Class A. Gilderman, the only head coach the program has known in its 17 seasons, said this is the deepest team he has ever had, consistently using three lines.
“You look all the way down to our youth numbers, and we’re in good shape,” he said. “We want to keep it that way.”
Hoff helped ease the loss of 2014 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year Reilly Fawcett, now playing for Bemidji State.
Junior Amy Lemenager has emerged in goal, with a 1.34 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and five shutouts.
Sophomore Mikayla Kero and senior Hannah Johnson are the top defensemen, with Kero (6 goals, 12 assists, 18 points) assuming a more offensive role. Kero and Hibbing-Chisholm’s Mallorie Iozzo were selected for the U.S. Select 15 National Player Development Camp this summer.
“We’ve got a nice mix,” Gilderman said. “We have ninth-graders who played in the state tournament last year, so they’re already experienced.”
Proctor-Hermantown went 20-10 last season and advanced to the program’s second state tournament. After losing the opener, they bounced back to take fifth place.
Gilbert is one of just three seniors on the team. She was an All-Lake Superior Conference performer in volleyball, where she was an outside hitter, and in softball, where she is a shortstop. Multisport athletes often say their favorite sport is the one they are playing at the time, but not Gilbert. She didn’t hesitate when asked her favorite.
“Hockey,” she said. “I played it since I was little, and fell in love with it at a young age.”
Gilbert will attend Wisconsin-River Falls next year and play hockey. The Falcons’ roster includes her former Mirage teammate, goalie Kylie Hommerding.
Gilbert, however, isn’t thinking too much about college just yet.
“The goal is always to get to the state tournament,” Gilbert said. “It’s great just to get down there. It’s quite an experience, but if we can make it this year, it’d be great to win that first game and go from there. But the first goal is to win these next two games.”
A LONG LAYOFF
With Section 7A only having six teams, the section’s top seeds, Proctor-Hermantown and No. 2 Hibbing-Chisholm (10-12-2), have first-round byes this week and will not play until Tuesday.
For the Mirage, that’s a layoff of 14 days after closing the regular season Jan. 27 with a 5-0 victory over Eveleth-Gilbert Area. They plan to play a scrimmage today at Centennial, a Class AA team that is 18-6-1.
“We had to have something in there,” Gilderman said.
The section used Minnesota-scores.net’s QRF ranking system to seed the section, with Moose Lake Area sliding to No. 4 despite a 15-8-1 record. International Falls (12-12) is No. 3.
“All of us are in the hunt,” Gilderman said.
The same could be said of Section 7AA, which also begins Thursday. No. 7 Cloquet-Esko-Carlton (6-16-3) is at No. 2 Andover (11-12-2), but the Lumberjacks have been playing better as of late.
No. 3 Grand Rapids-Greenway (15-9-1) hosts No. 6 St. Francis-North Branch (9-13-2) and hasn’t lost to a team from Northeastern Minnesota this season.
No. 5 Duluth (10-12-3) opens at No. 4 Forest Lake (12-12-1) and is coming off a 4-3 victory on Friday at Elk River-Zimmerman (18-6-1), the section’s top seed.
Final News Tribune girls hockey rankings
1. Grand Rapids-Greenway 15-9-1
2. Proctor-Hermantown 22-3-0
3. Duluth 10-12-3
4. Hayward-Ashland 19-3-0