Prep girls hockey: Mirage survive scare, advance to Class A state semifinals

Heitzman scores two goals, including the game-winner, as Proctor/Hermantown moves on.

Proctor/Hermantown forward Reese Heitzman (21) celebrates a goal against Mankato East in the second period Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. PAUL — Proctor/Hermantown coach Emma Stauber said her Mirage team is battle-tested, and after three straight trips to the Class A girls state hockey tournament, they should be.

Reese Heitzman scored two goals as second-seeded Proctor/Hermantown built a three-goal lead and then held on for a 4-3 victory over unseeded Mankato East in the Class A girls hockey state quarterfinals Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center.

“The majority of our team has been here,” Stauber said. “They’ve been through the quarters, they’ve been through the semis and have been in the championship game. Mentally, they know what’s coming at us.”

The Mirage (20-6-2), state champions in 2021 and runner-up last year, advance to the state semifinals for the third-straight year. They will play third-seeded Orono (21-3-4) at 11 a.m. Friday at Xcel Energy Center. Orono advanced with a 6-0 victory over Luverne.

“I think over the last couple years we’ve learned to either embrace the pressure or just forget about it,” Heitzman said. 


After Nya Sieger opened the scoring 9 minutes into the first, Heitzman and Ella Rothe scored in the second period to give Proctor/Hermantown a seemingly comfy cushion going into the third period up 3-0.

Proctor/Hermantown forward Nya Sieger (4) tries to steal the puck from Mankato East defender Emmy Schulz (16) in the first period Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Then things got a little crazy.

Unseeded Mankato East (20-7) jumped back into the game, as Jessica Eykyn and Brielle Newton scored just 29 seconds apart to make it 3-2 at 2:48 in the third.

Heitzman scored her second goal of the game, on assists by Sieger and Morgan LaValley at 4:53 in the third period, but Mankato East still wasn’t done. With LaValley draped all over her, McKenzie Keller did a terrific job maintaining the puck and sliding a backhand around Mirage goalie Neelah McLeod to pull the Cougars back within a goal at 4-3 at 10:16 in the third.

“I thought we responded really well in the third,” Mankato East coach Amber Prange said. “I thought that the girls played with resiliency. This group, that’s kind of the way that they play. We’ve been down by three goals before, but they never hang their heads too low or ever feel like they’re completely out of a game, like what just happened? They got after it. It was a fun moment to be in.”

That’s as close as Mankato East would get, however, as the Mirage defense tightened up just when they needed it most.

Proctor/Hermantown junior defenseman Katie Sandelin, the daughter of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey coach Scott Sandelin, said it was about staying together, staying positive and staying consistent.

When the Mirage got the puck in their own zone, they knew what to do with it.


“When we got the puck, we tried to get it out as fast as possible,” Katie Sandelin said. “After they got their goals, we were able to go forward with it. You kind of have to have a short mindset.”

Proctor/Hermantown forward Nya Sieger (4) tries to steal the puck from Mankato East defender Emmy Schulz (16) in the first period Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Proctor/Hermantown had to kill off a 5-on-3 in the third period and a penalty right at the end but the Cougars couldn’t get anything going in the closing minutes, turning it over at center ice time and again.

“It was definitely nerve wracking, but there’s going to be pressure at all times, in the state tournament, in our section final, even in our section semifinal,” Stauber said. “Those situations, we’ve been through them before. You gain that experience and that confidence to get through them. It was an uneasy last two minutes but we kept the pressure on them and did what we needed to do.”

Annaliese Rader, one of 10 semifinalists for the Let’s Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year Award, had 37 saves to lead Mankato East while McLeod finished with nine for Proctor/Hermantown.

Teammate Suri Langley had 35 saves when the Mirage skated to a 2-2 overtime tie with Orono Dec. 10 at Orono Ice Arena.

“We found a way to do it, so we really stayed positive after the game,” Stauber said. “We accomplished what we wanted to do. We got the win. There are some areas that we have to clean up before Friday but I’m definitely not disappointed with the girls at all.”

Mankato East 0-0-3—3

Proctor/Hermantown 1-2-1—4

First period — 1. PH, Nya Sieger (Reese Heitzman, Jane Eckstrom), 9:00.

Second period — 2. PH, Heitzman (Sieger, Katie Sandelin), 5:11; 3. PH, Ella Rothe (Natalya Hooey), 9:27.

Third period — 4. ME, Jessica Eykyn (Emmy Schulz, Ashley Fischer), 2:19; 5. ME, Brielle Newton (McKenzie Keller, Trinity Jackson), 2:48; 6. PH, Reese Heitzman (Sieger, Morgan LaValley), 4:53; 7. ME, McKenzie Keller (Kailey Newton), 10:16.

Saves — Annaliese Rader, ME, 37; Neelah McLeod, PH, 9.

This story was updated with quotes and more details at 4:48 p.m. on Feb. 22. It was originally posted at 1:26 p.m.

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