Prep girls hockey: Kimbrel’s OT goal lifts Orono over Proctor/Hermantown in state semifinals

Mirage forced overtime after Izy Fairchild’s power-play goal with 32 seconds remaining in regulation.

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Proctor/Hermantown forward Reese Heitzman (21) sends the puck past Orono goaltender Celia Dahl (30) to score in the first period Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. PAUL — Orono freshman Maddy Kimbrel has been so good all season long for the Spartans, it was no wonder with the game on the line that she ended up with the puck Friday in the Class A girls hockey state semifinals at Xcel Energy Center.

“She’s impressive,” first-year Orono coach Larry Olimb said.

But Kimbrel didn’t have to do anything too impressive this time. Like Happy Gilmore, she just had to tap it in.

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Orono defender Grace Bickett (20) comes away with the puck in a scramble between Orono defender Mae Grandy (4), Proctor/Hermantown forward Izy Fairchild (27) and Orono forward Anika Fortin (8) in the first period Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Kimbrel’s goal at 3:47 in overtime, which deflected off the skate of teammate Zoe Lopez and straight to her, lifted third-seeded Orono to a 4-3 victory over second-seeded Proctor/Hermantown and onto the state championship game.

“I’m proud of the resiliency our team showed today, coming back from a 3-1 deficit,” Mirage coach Emma Stauber said. “One bad bounce ended up right on her stick. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the game and things like that are going to happen.”


And Proctor/Hermantown sophomore goalie Neelah McLeod had no chance of stopping it as she was protecting the side of the net closest to Lopez. Nothing short of teleportation could have stopped that puck from going in.

Orono (22-3-4) advances to play top-seeded and defending champion Warroad (25-3-1) in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

“That was just how we planned it,” Olimb said, drawing a laugh in the postgame press conference. “We’re happy for the girls. We’re so evenly matched with Proctor/Hermantown. We tied during the regular season and essentially tied again … this one had to be decided in overtime. Both teams played really hard. I was really proud of the effort. I thought the energy in the building was fabulous.”

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Orono goaltender Celia Dahl (30) deflects a shot by Proctor/Hermantown forward Nya Sieger (4) in the third period Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Proctor/Hermantown plays fourth-seeded South St. Paul (22-6-1) at 9 a.m. in the third-place game.

“It’s good to know we gave it our all and there are no regrets in my senior year,” said defenseman and alternate captain Sophie Parendo, one of eight seniors on the team. “And we still have one more to go. The season’s not over.”

After senior forward Reese Heitzman opened the scoring at 6:21 in the first period on a perfect backdoor pass from Nya Sieger, Orono scored three consecutive goals in a 6:19 span of the second period to take control.

Proctor/Hermantown trimmed the lead to a goal when Jane Eckstrom circled from behind the net and spotted Sieger on the opposite side to make it 3-2 going into the third.

That’s how it stayed until Proctor/Hermantown junior forward Izy Fairchild scored on the power play with 32 seconds remaining in regulation. The Mirage pulled their goalie to give them a 6-on-4 advantage. Fairchild got the puck all alone but initially fumbled the handle. She took a step back to retrieve the puck and quickly lifted a shot off the shoulder of Orono goalie Celia Dahl and into the net, sending the Mirage bench into a frenzy as Stauber slammed the palms of her hands into the glass and started waving her arms up and down, up and down.


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Orono forward Josie Raiche (16) and Proctor/Hermantown forward Hannah Graves (6) battle for the puck in the second period Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

“It’s the stuff that we work on in practice,” Stauber said. “It’s the stuff that we put in the work for. We were ready for it, we were prepared and our girls executed. That was a huge goal. That definitely gave us some momentum, gave us some life. We were trying to get it all period.

"Both teams were running on adrenaline at that point. That goal gave us some momentum. We definitely felt like we had it.”

Proctor/Hermantown had its chances and even went on the power play early in the overtime period but couldn’t make it happen as Kimbrel played spoiler. The freshman is second on her team in scoring with 21 goals and 47 points.

Dahl, who singled out Sieger for her outstanding play on Friday, finished with 24 saves for Orono while McLeod had 23 for Proctor/Hermantown.

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Proctor-Hermantown goaltender Neelah McLeod (1) keeps a shot away from the net against Orono in the first period Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Orono is playing in its second state tournament after the Spartans made their first appearance last year, falling 4-1 to Proctor/Hermantown in the semifinals.

“We were ready for this game and we knew what was coming,” Orono junior defenseman Grace Bickett said. “We call it the “Revenge Tour 2023.’”

The Mirage was playing in their third straight state semifinal after winning the Class A title in 2021 and finishing as state runner-up to Warroad last year. It is their seventh state tournament overall, all since 2014 (Proctor/Hermantown/Marshall also went in 2010).

“Obviously this is going to sting but at the end of the season there’s only two teams that take the championship,” Stauber said. “It takes a lot of hard work and time and effort and energy to get to this point. We’re not disappointed in the strides we made as a team or with the program. Yeah, we fell short a little bit today but didn’t negate what put on the ice.”


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Orono forward Macy Rasmussen (23), Proctor/Hermantown forward Reese Heitzman (21) and Orono defender Allie Pleimann (28) get tangled chasing the puck in the first period Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Orono 0-3-0-1—4

Proctor/Hermantown 1-1-1-0—3

First period — 1. PH, Reese Heitzman (Nya Sieger), 6:21.

Second period — 2. O, Alexa Niccum (Anika Fortin, Alex Paulsen), 1:00 (pp); 3. O, Macy Rasmussen (Kali Schmidt), 5:41; 4. O, Zoe Lopez (Allie Pleimann), 7:19; 5. PH, Sieger (Jane Eckstrom), 10:43.

Third period — 6. PH, Izy Fairchild, PH, Izy Fairchild (Sieger, Alyssa Yokom), 16:28 (pp).

Overtime — 7. O, Maddy Kimbrel (Lopez, Macy Rasmussen), 3:47.

Saves — Celia Dahl, O, 24; Neelah McLeod, PH, 23.

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Proctor/Hermantown forward Reese Heitzman (21) takes the puck past Orono forward Josie Raiche (16) in the first period Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

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