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Luverne girls hockey: Something to prove

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE The Luverne girls hockey team huddles around first-year head girls hockey coach Tony Sandbulte (left) during a timeout in Saturday’s game at Blue Mound Arena.1 / 3
BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Luverne sophomore Makayla Sterrett (16) takes a shot during the first period of Saturday’s girls hockey game.2 / 3
BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Luverne senior defenseman Briana Erickson (18) brings the puck up the ice in transition, with freshman Carly Serie (15) in tow, during Saturday’s girls hockey game in Luverne. 3 / 3

LUVERNE — A hungry animal is a dangerous one, and the Luverne Cardinals are as eager as anybody to take their girls hockey game to yet another level.

Coming off two straight Southwest Conference crowns, Luverne sits at 2-0 on this early season.

The Cardinals hope to possibly make a deeper run in the postseason than they ever have before, after six recent failed attempts in section final games.

A lot of hockey is to be decided between now and then. The team does, however, list overcoming its postseason road blocks as a goal this winter.

“I know the girls are hungry to get a little further than (the section final),” first-year girls hockey coach Tony Sandbulte said, after he took over the girls team following a five year stint with the boys squad. “The girls have put a lot of hard work into what they’ve done in the past. We’re just going to try and take it up one more notch and see if we can do something special.”

The Cardinals have impressed thus far through their first two games, employing a ‘don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ style of offense that is potent, providing the aptitude to score goals from several angles.

After besting Windom Area 8-0 last week, Luverne most recently ripped St. Peter/LeSuer-Henderson via 11-2 final, at noon on Saturday at Blue Mound Arena.

Luverne blasted six goals in the first period to command attention and bury its opponent early, outshooting them 41-14.

Makayla Sterrett, a sophomore forward for the Cards, put in four goals for her club while Madison Crabtree, Mariah Aukes and Madisyn Dingmann each scored two. Madilyn Oye added one more to the fire as defensive stops force-fed offensive production for the Cards on the other end of the ice.

Hockey talk aside, the reasons for the team’s success is quite simple, Sterett said. It comes down to team chemistry.

“We’re happy we’re 2-0 so far and are playing really well together,” she said. “We have had good practices and work on a lot of things, but we do a lot of things together as a team outside of hockey. We just all connect really well.”

Sterett opened scoringfor the Cards against St. Peter, from the left wing at 3:18 of the first frame. She took an assist from freshman Carly Serie to post a 1-0 lead. The Cards followed it up to tear through a span of 73 seconds with which they slammed three goals at St. Peter.

Dingmann scored her goal at 4:21 while Aukes took a feed from Dingmann for the game’s third goal at 4:36. Sterret’s shot at 5:34 went in-and-out, but Oye put it back for her only goal of the game, handing the Cardinals a comfortable 4-0 advantage.

Sterett and Crabtree each knocked in goals in a 51 second span, starting at 7:00 of the first period, to push the game to a six-goal spread, providing the second of two bursts the Cards had in them to open up the game.

“We really want to start everything in our defensive zone, picking people up. Once we do get possession we want to turn it up north-south,” Sandbulte said. “We want to get a quick transition and catch people on their heels a little bit.”

St. Peter charged back, with a breakaway shot opportunity at the 9:00 mark of the first frame, taken by junior defenseman Hannah Keschult. Luverne eighth-grader Emilie Bartels got the start in the net for her Cardinals and got down to make the stop. She had 13 saves for the afternoon.

St. Peter’s Chloe Bachman then chipped in a goal off the left wing, on an assist from junior Bailey Wilmes at 11:56 of the first frame. The five-point spread at 6-1 would be as close as St. Peter would come. Chelsea Kaelberer took an assist credited to Taylor Witte, from behind the goal, to knock in a short-range shot for the Bulldogs at 1:40 of the third period, but the damage had been done.

Luverne’s Aukes (1), Sterrett (2), and Dingmann (1) collectively scored four goals in the second period to enact a continuous clock through the third period.

Each team faced a two power plays for the day, but it was Luverne who made good on them. Sterrett’s third goal, at 10:56 of the second period, was against a shorthanded St. Peter squad, in a 5-on-4 situation. Crabtree finished the game off for Luverne, scoring at the 2:36 mark of the closing period.

“St. Peter is a good team. We just came out strong in the first and I was impressed with how we did that on our home ice,” Sandbulte said. “We just want to keep building on this success.”

The Cardinals will take a 200 mile road trip for their next outing, to Long Prairie, where Luverne faces Pequot Lakes Friday night and Long Prairie on Saturday.

Whoever the opponent may be, the Cardinals will go to work now, hoping they can keep things together as they start their season.

The Cards will let the chips fall where they may. Luverne has not dropped a conference game since former SWC member Morris/Benson took two games from the Cardinals during the 2010-11 campaign and the team went 6-4 in league play.

“We’re like a family on this team and we play so well,” Luverne senior Ellen Dahl said after the St. Peter outcome. “In the first six minutes today especially, we came out and showed (St. Peter) how we play. That was nice.”

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson is the Daily Globe sports writer. He hails from southwest Iowa and served as sports editor at the Audubon County Advocate Journal there for 2 ½ years before moving to Worthington in October 2013. Caleb trys to enjoy life and everybody that he meets. He enjoys music, playing guitar and drums, and is an avid sports fan. 
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