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The evolution of a goalie

WORTHINGTON -- Taylor Baumhoefner has come a long way.

A senior goalie on the Worthington girls' hockey team, Baumhoefner evolved over the years from figure skater to hockey player, from scorer to stopper, from pillows to pads, and from tears to triumph.

The result: Baumhoefner has turned herself into one of the Southwest Conference's best and stingiest goaltenders entering this season.

"She's incredible," Worthington second-year coach Jill Cuperus said, referring to the senior stopper. "She's outstanding."

While she excels in the net now, Baumhoefner got off to a modest start.

Growing up near a lake in Fulda, she got into figure skating at an early age. One day, when she was in sixth grade, her brother, Mitchell, asked her to help him practice his hockey skills.

"I put my figure skates on, and we literally duct-taped pillows to my legs," Baumhoefner said, laughing. "We went onto the ice, and I wore my brother's equipment and helmets and stuff, and I had these pillows on my legs.

"He shot at me, and I was like, 'I want to do this.'"

Baumhoefner joined Worthington's varsity hockey team the next year, as a seventh-grader, but kept quiet about her willingness to tend the nets.

After coming off the bench as a forward in her first season, Baumhoefner became the team's starting goalie as an eighth-grader.

While she had some modest experience in goal, and much better equipment, she couldn't hide her nervousness prior to the Trojans' season opener against LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter/Le Center.

"I was so scared; I was crying before we went out on the ice," Baumhoefner said. "I was so scared; I didn't know what to do."

Baumhoefner allowed nine goals in the loss. But, since then, things have changed considerably.

Last season, in a 1-0 loss to LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter/Le Center, Baumhoefner made 72 saves -- a single-game program record. The winning goal came in the third period, when Baumhoefner was screened by her own defender and couldn't see a shot from the blue line.

"I was heartbroken," she said.

Worthington managed one shot on goal in the loss.

The Trojans scored just five goals last season and finished 0-14-1. They combined for 69 goals in the previous two seasons and finished with a combined record of 6-37-2.

"We want to improve one percent every practice," said Cuperus, who, as a sophomore, played in the program's inaugural season, in 2000, before starting both as a junior and senior. "We have a lot of things we want to work on -- get better at passing, get better at anticipating -- but if we just get a little bit better in every practice, it's going to make a big difference."

The Trojans will be led this year by junior defender Angela Bui, who also excels as an offensive playmaker.

"Angela is really good about picking (the puck) up in our defensive zone and carrying it all the way down the ice," Cuperus said. "She's quick; she's good with the puck and stick, and she can anticipate.

"She was a captain last year, and she's just an outstanding person, a real leader on our team."

Sophomore Stephanie Pavelko and senior Liz Rohrbauch also are returning on defense to help Baumhoefner.

But Baumhoefner doesn't necessarily want too much help.

"I hate being bored," she said, laughing. "I can't sit still."