Wildcats upset Delano/Rockford in back-to-back split
When any team plays a pair of games in two consecutive nights, it’s a process that has even the best of athletes trying to prepare themselves for that situation. For high school athletes, the process becomes even more complex as they learn how to manage that scenario and how to play at their best.
The Dodge County girls hockey team was no exception to this as they played one of the best games of the year on December 8 by defeating fifth-ranked Delano/Rockford before falling the next night on a road trip to Buffalo.
“A lot of kids aren’t used to that back-to-back schedule, but I explained to them if they go to college [to play hockey], it’s going to be like this every week,” Dodge County head coach Jeremy Gunderson explained. “You have to be ready the next night to bring your A-Game, put that first game to rest and be ready to go.”
The front end of the back-to-back was a great one for the Wildcats as they were able to pick up a win against a talented Delano/Rockford squad. The two teams would battle throughout a scoreless first period as the Wildcats laid back to neutralize D-R’s forecheck.
As the two teams went into the second period, Olivia Lamb would score to put the Wildcats ahead 1-0. After Abby Olson answered for D-R, Olivia Smallbrock would get the eventual game-winner from Katie Montrose to take a 2-1 lead.
From there, Dodge County’s defense would take over suffocating D-R and showing off a tremendous performance by Annabel Smith, who stopped 25 of 26 D-R shots.
“Annabel has been turning things around,” Gunderson said. “We’ve done a lot with her and our coaches have done a good job. She has made all the saves in practice, so we knew she had this ability. It just comes down to the confidence and composure to make those saves in games.”
The Wildcats would hold on for the win as they jumped on the bus to head to Buffalo the next night. Unfortunately, the back-to-back would get the best of Dodge County here and they didn’t have the same energy they had the night before.
“We came out flat and couldn’t get our legs going,” Gunderson observed. “We didn’t have opportunities and we just didn’t have a spark.”
With the Wildcats suffering from heavy legs, the Bison were able to take advantage as Jada Habisch got behind the defense for a pair of breakaways (one in the first period and one in the third) to give Buffalo a 2-0 victory.
While the result wasn’t what the Wildcats were hoping for, they still saw it as a learning experience with more back-to-back games on the schedule including next week when they will play two road games at the Academy of Holy Angels and Minnetonka.
“It’s all about taking care of yourself,” Gunderson said. “Sometimes for any high school athlete, it takes a lot more to understand what it takes to perform in that scenario. This is a good experience to learn and we’ll adjust for that.”
In addition to the Friday and Saturday games, the Wildcats also headed up to the metro area on Tuesday night to take on Bloomington Jefferson. The Wildcats will have one more game prior to the holiday break when they travel to Hutchinson on December 22.