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Young Trojans coming together on ice

Worthington Trojans senior girls hockey players Alyssa Bousema (front left), Maddie Schmidt and goalie Bailey Kruse (standing) lead the team in 2017-18. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)1 / 2
Kessey Aljets stops at the sound of the whistle during practice drills for the Worthington Trojans girls hockey team. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Even though it’s only been a couple weeks of practice for the Worthington girls hockey team, senior Alyssa Bousema already sees the team bonding together.

“We are getting closer as a family already, it’s crazy,” she said. “We work as a team better when we’re communicating. I feel like we are closer, so that helps us. We’ll do better if we’re more involved with each other and when we get to know each other better.”

With only three seniors and no juniors on this year’s team, head coach Chad Nickel has been impressed with his young team ahead of Tuesday’s home opener.

“I think we’re doing pretty good,” Nickel said. “Same as always, conditioning is the first big thing. We have some younger girls coming out of the youth program this year that are going to be a useful tool.”

Bousema joins Maddie Schmidt and Bailey Kruse as the trio of seniors this year. All three agree one of the biggest goals this season is to win a game, something the Trojans haven’t been able to do for a couple years.

“I really want to win a game,” Bousema said. “I think that would be great for a senior year. We really haven’t really had a winning streak yet. That would be great. Or just play really well and get everybody working together as a team. That’s one of our biggest goals.”

And what would a win mean?

“My heart would be full,” Schmidt said. “I think it would be an amazing experience my senior year to get some wins with the girls we have on the team now. It would be fun.”

This season, Nickel said it starts with Kruse in the net.

“Essentially, she’s the one that’s going to keep us in there this year,” he said. “She’s going to be crucial.”

Offensively, the Trojans have some threats. Nickel pointed to Ashton Fogelman, Kya Nickel, Brynne White and Kessy Aljets as players who can put the puck in the net.

“If we can get one or two (goals), I’ve always told them I’ll do my part and keep them out of the net, you just have to put it in the net yourself,” Kruse said.

Offense has been a focus so far this season.

“We’ve been working on a lot of passing and spreading out some more,” Schmidt said. “And working on the first person down the ice goes in first and trying to move around there.”

Ahead of Kruse, Chad Nickel said Madisyn Shreiner, Kory Nickel, Schmidt, Hannah Barrie and Delayne Kuhl will see time defensively.

“We have a strong offense, I think,” Schmidt said. “Our defense is pretty strong, too, and our goalie is very accurate in what she does. I think this season is going to be better than the rest of them have been.”

As the season progresses, Coach Nickel said one of the main focuses is going to be working on his team’s “hockey sense.”

“That’s what we’ve already started working on as far as trying to create the mental part of the game,” he said. “We’ve got some girls that can physically play the game, speed wise and agility wise. We just need to hone in their hockey sense.”

Luverne Cardinals

With Emily Bartels returning in net for Luverne, head coach Tony Sandbulte isn’t worried about his goaltending.

“Our team strength will be our goaltending,” he said. “Emily Bartels has the ability to keep us in every game.”

However, the Cardinals will need to continue to improve offensively.

“Our team weakness will be our depth and putting players on the ice with very little varsity experience,” Sandbulte said. “We will need to put extra focus and attention on our offense, as we have lost a lot of our scoring to graduation over the past couple of years.”

The Cardinals return 12 letterwinners from a squad that went 10-12-3 overall last year. Leading the offensive charge will be seniors Maddie Dinger and Lexi Henrichs along with freshman Roz Oye. Defensively, Sandbulte looks to Claire Baustian, Brynn Thier and Regan Feit to play quality minutes for the Cardinals.

Windom Area Eagles

Windom Area head coach Bill Fredin has some youth on this team, but a solid returning core gives the Eagles some optimism this season.

“We kept our core group together,” the coach said. “All our leading scorers and our goalie are back.”

The Eagles’ strength starts in net with senior goalie Emily Steen.

“She’s kept us in a lot of games,” Fredin said. “That’s pretty much the base of our team right there. We haven’t got a lot of numbers. They get tired, so she sees a lot of shots. She’s really good. I’d put her up against any goalie in the state.”

Offensively, WA returns Molly Boyum and Anna Volk, both of which will be counted on to provide much of the offense. Fredin also points to Abby Ignaszewski as a player who will be able to put the puck in the net.

“Hopefully we get some more people to step up and score some more goals,” Fredin said.

Defensively, Abagail Turner, Jolyssa Higley-Purrington, Ellyson Bang and Meakin Bang will play key roles in front of Steen.

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