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Girls hockey: Hilltoppers pull away from Rebels in Section 7A playoff primer

Great matchups abound over the coming days as teams gear up for the postseason.

Girls hockey players in red, white and blue uniforms compete against players in black yellow and white uniforms on an indoor ice sheet.
Moose Lake Area goaltender Mallory Hartl (33) stops a shot on goal from Nina Thomson (7) of Duluth Marshall on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — As Duluth Marshall girls hockey coach Amanda Boulier sang the praises of the Hilltoppers’ five seniors Thursday, Jan. 27, as part of Senior Night at Mars Lakeview Arena, she paused and brought up the most important part.

“We’re not done yet,” Boulier said. “We’ve got a big chunk of the season left, and another week and a half of the regular season and then playoffs. We’re excited. We’re still getting better, still building, but we’ll be ready to go for the playoffs.”

The Hilltoppers feel like the best is yet to come, and based on Thursday night, they might be right.

Sophomore forward Ilsa Lindaman scored a pair of goals to lead Marshall to a 4-1 victory over Moose Lake Area in a potential primer for next month’s Section 7A playoffs.

Lindaman opened the scoring at 6:20 in the first period on a nice feed from Annika Lindgren, a senior in her first year in the program who Lindaman called a “fantastic player.” Lindaman knew what to do with it, burying a shot in the top-right corner. Lindaman later completed the scoring with an empty netter.

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Girls hockey players in red, white and blue uniforms compete against players in black yellow and white uniforms on an indoor ice sheet.
Duluth Marshall players Nina Thorson (7) and Meredith Boettcher (24) celebrate after scoring a goal against Moose Lake Area on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

While defending state champion Proctor-Hermantown is the obvious favorite in Section 7A, don’t think this will be a shoo-in. Duluth Marshall is just one of the teams lining up to prove otherwise.

“Every team in the section has big strong players who are hard to play against, but we’re going to find out (where we stack up),” Lindaman said. “We’re ready to battle it out, and that’s same mentality we’ve got for every team in the section.”

Proctor-Hermantown, Minnesota’s third-ranked Class A team, plays Andover, Class AA’s No. 1, at 7 p.m. Friday in Hermantown. The Mirage play Marshall at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, in Proctor.

Proctor-Hermantown beat Marshall 6-0 en route to last year’s Class A state title.

“I remember that game too well, and I can’t wait to play them again, so much so,” Lindaman said. “We’ve got a ton of great players who can put the puck in the net. Everyone on this team has just matured. We’re older and have just gotten that much better in terms of learning how to play as a team.”

Girls hockey players in red, white and blue uniforms compete against players in black yellow and white uniforms on an indoor ice sheet.
Moose Lake Area players Lily Ludwig (10), Gabby Gamst (19) and Megan Hattenberger (5) celebrate after scoring a goal against Duluth Marshall on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Marshall downed Moose Lake Area 3-1 Jan. 13 in Moose Lake but the Rebels were playing without a chunk of their roster due to COVID-19.

This time, they were closer to full strength and were actually tied 1-1 with the Hilltoppers going into the second intermission when Megan Hattenberger scored at 8:22 in the first period on assists from Raechel Painovich and Gabby Gamst.

It was short-lived, however, as Marshall took control in the second period on goals from Nina Thorson and Meredith Boettcher, a dynamic junior who can do it all, even playing goalie for a JV game this year. There were times in the second period where Marshall appeared to be on the power play, even when they were shorthanded, because Boettcher flying around on special teams is a game changer.

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Boulier was asked where the Hilltoppers try to use Boettcher, and her answer was simple.

“Everywhere,” she said.

Girls hockey players in red, white and blue uniforms compete against players in black yellow and white uniforms on an indoor ice sheet.
Meredith Boettcher (24) of Duluth Marshall controls the puck against Sandra Ribich (21) of Moose Lake Area on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Freshman goalie Raya Anderson had 25 saves for the Hilltoppers, who improved to 13-4 overall and 8-0 against Section 7A opponents. Freshman Mallory Hartl had 32 saves for the Rebels, who are 15-6-1 overall but only 3-5-1 against section opponents.

So while it might appear the upstart Moose Lake Area program isn’t quite there yet, don’t tell that to Hartl. The Rebels led Proctor-Hermantown 3-2 going into the third period Monday, Jan. 24, but ultimately lost 6-3 as the Mirage played without starting goalie Abby Pajari.

It’s been that kind of year.

“We didn’t play to our full potential tonight,” Hartl said. “We played solid defensively, way more solid than we had before, but we’ve got to get a little stronger offensively. We tend to pass the puck a little more than we should, and we’ve just got to start shooting the puck. We hesitated a little too much tonight, but I’d love to see them again.”

Moose Lake Area 1-0-0—1

Duluth Marshall 1-2-1—4

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First period — 1. DM, Ilsa Lindaman (Annika Lindgren), 6:20; 2. MLA, Megan Hattenberger (Raechel Painovich, Gabby Gamst), 8:22.

Second period — 3. DM, Nina Thorson (Kenny Royer, Meredith Boettcher), 11:19; 4. DM, Boettcher (Avery Lian, Royer), 14:28.

Third period — 5. DM, Ilsa Lindaman (Lindgren, Thorson), 15:30 (en).

Saves — Mallory Hartl, MLA, 32; Raya Anderson, DM, 25.

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@duluthnew.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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