DL girls hockey starts with a boost of positive attitude
The Detroit Lakes girls hockey team does not want a repeat of last season and have put in the preseason work and insisted upon a change in attitude to get the program turned around from a four-win campaign in 2016.
“We definitely have room for improvements, but we can only go up from here,” said tri-captain Anna Payne.
Payne is the lone senior captain and will lead the team with juniors Payton Carlblom, DL’s top defenseman, and junior and returning leading scorer Abagail King.
“I think the culture is very different this year,” said head coach Gretchen Norby. “Really knowing that last year was a disappointing season, in many ways, they are approaching things differently and understanding the hard work has to be put in. We’re going to reap the benefits. I’ve seen them putting in that work the last two weeks and trying to be competitive.”
The Lakers were 4-21-1 last season sweeping Crookston in the season series and putting together back-to-back wins at Bemidji and home over Morris/Benson midseason. DL was winless in the Mid-State (0-5-1) and lost 11 of their final 12 games culminating in a 6-0 loss at Park Rapids in the opening round of the Section 8A playoffs.
Team morale suffered, according to the players and head coach. Losing streaks are no fun.
“It’s hard not to have that,” said Norby. “We’ve been through that now so we know what it’s going to take to climb out. We understand we’re going to have our lumps, but we’re going to have to work through them.”
While the top two lines have seen a number of changes through two weeks and two scrimmages this preseason, the team strength begins in the back end.
“We have a lot of returning ‘D’ from last year. None of us are first year. I think, defensively, we’ll be pretty strong,” said Carlblom.
Carlblom and sophomore Annie Campbell split up as top pairing to bring balance to the other sides of the point.
Carlblom is paired with freshman McKenna Burhans, while Campbell and junior Sydney Brininger will be next shift.
Goalie Kyndra McDougall played in 18 games last season and begins her third year of varsity play between the pipes. Freshman Lean Honer will be the backup replacing departed senior Shannara Wheeler.
Up front, Karrigan Hallisey scored seven goals last year and centers the top line with Payne and Perham sophomore Madyson Melgard.
Melgard was feisty around the net and showed she can score. Norby wants to see more aggressive play from Melgard and playing with Payne and Hallisey will allow for that should the line find early harmony down low.
Eighth-grader Emma Coley is centering the second line with King and junior Lily Burnside.
While this line is young, all three players are fast and aggressive skaters and both lines feature members from special teams.
At first glance, it was easy to put King with Payne and Hallisey to have three scorers attacking the net first shift.
“We started out with that, but we had to level things out a bit,” Norby said.
Norby, a three-time all-state player as a Laker and two-year player at St. Cloud State University, is in her seventh season as head coach. She is only the second coach in girls hockey history at DLHS. She took over for Dan Maloney, her coach as a player here.
Of her 31 girls out in junior varsity plus, 11 bring back a healthy amount of game experience and the leaders are looking for offensive output from around the lineup, not just the top returners.
“It’s anyone’s game, but hopefully we can all put some points up there,” said King.
Emotion, character and the necessary mindset to be successful have also been key foci heading into Saturday’s opener.
“Your attitude going into the games and especially practice, when it gets long - you just have to keep each other’s attitudes up,” King said.
Detroit Lakes opens the season with a challenge, the Fergus Falls Otters and junior Sophie Rausch. Rausch scored 31 goals with 17 assists to lead the 2016 Otters as a sophomore. The Otters return seven players who reached double figures in scoring. Junior Jayden McKeever is back in net. She started 17 games (11-6).
DL opens the year with four consecutive home games facing Thief River Falls (Nov. 14), Woodbury (Nov. 17) and East Grand Forks on Saturday, Nov. 18.
The Otters and Lakers drop the puck Saturday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. at Kent Freeman Arena.