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Dahl, Fitzer and Olson leading way for Cards

LUVERNE -- Kat Dahl, Mikki Fitzer and Paige Olson can't actually read each other's minds.

It only appears that way.

Juniors on Luverne's girls' hockey team, Dahl, Fitzer and Olson have played together on the same line since they were in third grade. Together, they held their own against boys. They basically started Luverne's girls' Under-12 program. And they held their own as seventh-graders playing on the varsity level.

The result: a unique chemistry that has helped them form the "most-talented line" in the program's history, according to Luverne coach Dave Siebenahler.

"When those three girls are together, they're the perfect combination," Siebenahler said. "They can make things happen; they can make goals happen.

"Half the time, they don't even have to look; they know if they're going to pass the puck to an area, one of them is going to be there."

Dahl, Fitzer and Olson have combined to score 53 of the Cardinals' 81 goals this season. They also have combined for 51 assists and 104 points, leading Luverne to the No. 3 seed -- tied for the best in program history -- in the Section 3A tournament.

The Cardinals (10-12) will host Redwood Valley (2-12) at 7 p.m. today, with the winner facing either seventh-seeded Worthington (0-19) or second-seeded Windom Area (12-10-1) on Feb. 17.

The Cardinals never have advanced past the second round of sections. But Dahl, Fitzer and Olson likely won't buckle under the playoff pressure. They've been thrown into the proverbial fire ever since they started playing competitive hockey.

"Paige and I started playing the same year," Dahl said. "Mikki was playing before us, and we thought it looked cool, so we decided to give it a shot. It was pretty addicting, and we all got hooked."

But only one other girl their age shared the same addiction, forcing them to play with the boys.

"It's pretty intense being on the boys' team when you're a girl," Dahl said. "We were kind of scared at first, but we grew to love the sport."

Added Olson: "The girls stuck together, like we would always ride to the games together, and we formed a really close bond early on."

Soon thereafter, they helped form Luverne's first U-12 girls' team and eventually led it to the regional tournament.

They didn't stay at that level very long.

"I moved them up off the 12-and-under team as seventh graders, and I've pretty much had them on the same line ever since," Siebenahler said. "They worked hard, they skated well, they understood the game, they had good work ethic, and they were good all-around athletes."

But they weren't immune to nervousness.

"We were only in seventh grade, so I was really nervous to be playing on varsity with all the older girls," Fitzer said. "'Intimidated' was probably the word for it; we were the youngest ones out there. We got pushed around; we were smaller than everyone. But we hung in there."

Despite her apprehension, Olson said the first year was her favorite.

"At first, I was really debating whether to join varsity or not because, as a seventh-grader playing with seniors, you're pretty much the underdog and inexperienced and stuff," Olson said. "So I was about to stay with the 12-and-under team, but Kat convinced me to come up. And it was probably the best experience; that was the funnest year."

While Olson and Fitzer played offense, Dahl took on a different role.

"I actually started out on defense my first year," said Dahl, whose younger sister, Ellen, is playing defense as a seventh-grader this season. "And with that weight on your shoulders, it was completely nerve-wracking."

The trio adjusted quickly and, after winning just five games the next season, led Luverne to at least 10 wins in each of the past three years.

Their chemistry together has become so good and led to so much success that Siebenahler has been unable to separate them.

Last year, he moved Olson to a different line in an attempt to spread out the scoring. And, earlier this season, he moved Dahl back to defense in an attempt to add experience to the blue line.

Each time, however, it backfired, and Luverne's scoring on each line went down.

"It kind of went backward," Siebenahler said. "They just have the right chemistry and the right combination.

"They all have different personalities, and they all have their own unique traits -- they're all themselves. But when the three of them are together on the ice, they're great."

The girls don't want to be separated.

"It's frustrating playing with another person," Olson said. "This year, (Siebenahler) tried moving Kat back to defense, and you'd pass it to where you thought Kat would be, and it wouldn't work out because you're so used to playing with those girls."

Olson leads the team this season with 20 assists. The right wing also has 11 goals and 31 points.

Fitzer leads the team in goals (24) and points (39). The center also has 15 assists.

Dahl, a left wing, is second on the team in goals (18), assists (16) and points (34).

"We've always connected," Dahl said. "We've been playing together for so long that it's kind of natural now. We all know where we're going to be on the ice, and we just work with each other really well."