Prep girls hockey: Fairchild, Mirage look the part of a state championship contender in rout of Bluejackets
Sophomore winger scores a career-high four goals for defending Minnesota Class A champs.
PROCTOR — Proctor-Hermantown winger Izy Fairchild admitted the thought of hitting the old panic button crossed her mind after the Mirage, the defending Class A champions, undefeated in 2020-21, started this season 0-2.
“It was a hard start but we were still getting used to playing with each other,” Fairchild said. “Now, we keep getting better as we go.”
They sure do.
Fairchild, a sophomore, scored a career-high four goals as Proctor-Hermantown steamrolled its way to an 11-0 victory over a shorthanded Hibbing-Chisholm team Friday night before a sparse crowd at St. Luke’s Events Center as conditions were snowy and slippery outside.
In the end, it was the Bluejackets (9-9-2) who were left out in the cold.
Hibbing-Chisholm’s Pete Hyduke, a 46-year coaching veteran, said this was the type of game you flush as soon as possible. He said the Mirage (12-4-1) are starting to show the swagger one might expect from the defending state champions. There was plenty of talent, but after graduating 10 seniors, it was going to take time.
“They’ve got a deep, deep team, and they’ve got the mojo going right now,,” Hyduke said. “Give them credit. They play a beautiful brand of hockey. They keep coming line after line, so you have to move your feet and take away time and space. We explained how they were going to cycle, we explained exactly what they were going to do, so now all we had to do was read and react. I’m not going to say we didn’t work hard, because we did. We just didn’t work smart.”
Hibbing-Chisholm was playing without two of its top scorers in senior captains Julia Gherardi and Megan Bussey but Hyduke isn’t one to make excuses. The Bluejackets ran into a buzzsaw.
“We’ve been shorthanded all season,” he said. “Once we get healthy, we’ll have two solid lines, but right now we just don’t have it. We’re not deep enough to be losing two or three key people, but this was inexcusable. You can still play defense.”
The postgame pep talk for the Bluejackets was incredibly brief … just get on the bus and go.
When comparing last year to this year, Hyduke brought up a great point.
“They never beat us like this,” he said.
Hyduke will have Hibbing-Chisholm playing better come next month’s Section 7A playoffs — the Bluejackets always do. Duluth Marshall, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton and Moose Lake Area are among the other contenders, but Proctor-Hermantown is once again a heavy favorite based on Friday’s dismantling.
In fairness to the Mirage’s slow start, those first two opponents — Warroad and Orono — are a combined 27-4-1 this season.
“We knew what we were up against at the beginning of the season,” Proctor-Hermantown coach Emma Stauber said. “That’s who we are up against in terms of the best teams in Class A. We had to let the girls fall into place and give them a chance to figure things out. Every season has ups and downs. The beginning was a bit of a down, but now we’re on an up, and hopefully we peak at the end of the year.
Fairchild, a 5-foot-2 dynamo, struck first when she scored an unassisted goal after Hibbing-Chisholm turned it over in its own end. That goal, at 2:37 in the first period, was all the Mirage would need as senior Abby Pajari (nine saves) and eighth-grader Suri Langley (one save) combined on the shutout.
Fairchild, who also had an assist, now has 18 goals and eight assists for 26 points in just 15 games this season.
After playing on the same line as Bemidji State recruit Alyssa Watkins and Macy Sieger last season, Fairchild is now on a line with center Ember Kehtel and Rylee Gilbertson.
It was an adjustment, no doubt, but it appears the Mirage have adjusted just fine.
“I think we’ve got a great chance (to be a championship contender) if we keep working hard every game, all three periods,” Fairchild said. “We’re coming together, so hopefully it’ll be exciting. I feel a lot better (about our chances) than I did early in the year.”
First period — 1. PH, Izy Fairchild, 2:37; 2. PH, Fairchild (Rylee Gilbertson, Ember Kehtel), 7:04; 3. PH, Jane Eckstrom (Hannah Graves, Nya Sieger), 11:57.
Second period — 4. PH, Fairchild (Kehtel, Reese Heitzman), 2:07; 5. PH, Preslie Annala, 7:38; 6. PH, Gilbertson (Kehtel), 8:15; 7. PH, Graves (Morgan LaValley), 15:02; 8. PH, Graves (Sieger, Ava Anick), 15:30.
Third period — 9. PH, Heitzman (Natalie Berg), 5:10; 10. PH, Sieger (Fairchild), 7:05; 11. Fairchild (Kehtel), 12:08.
Saves — Addison Hess, HC, 31; Abby Pajari, PH, 9; Suri Langley, PH, 1.