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WHS girls aim to improve again

Worthington Trojan juniors (from left) Kya Nickel, Kaylee Bents and Hannah Barrie hope to help lead the team to victories in 2018-19. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 2
Trojan McKenna Nickel (in red) brakes toward the goal followed by Kory Nickel during practice at the hockey arena. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Coming off one of the most successful years in recent history, the Worthington girls hockey team is in a good place.

Still, after winning seven games last season and losing only three players to graduation, head coach Chad Nickel isn’t looking ahead, but rather just trying to get his team better each day and take it one game at a time.

“I think practice has been going very well. The girls who were here last year picked up right where we left off,” Nickel said. “Wins are a confidence booster. We’ve never had that many close games, so we’re moving in the right direction.”

This year, the Trojans have 25 girls on the team — more than a year ago. WHS does not have a senior on the roster.

“This would be the fourth year of them starting the feeder program and it’s shown,” Nickel said. “We are where we’re at because of keeping those younger girls in.”

The large numbers will help in many ways, assistant coach Rachel Peters said.

“Having so many returning players, we’re able to build a lot more solid lines throughout and not just have certain kids the whole team is depending on,” she said. “There’s a lot more players to depend on this year.”

While WHS was victorious in seven contests — including three by shutout — during the 2017-18 season, there were others that got away.

“I think we’re looking forward to some of those teams this year to have another chance at them with the returning players we have and the depth that we do have this year,” Peters said.

One hole the Trojans will need to fill is goalie after losing Bailey Kruse to graduation. Kaylee Bents — who has seen time at the varsity level — is slated to start between the pipes.

“Kaylee is picking up right where Bailey left off,” Nickel said. “She’s stepped up and taken the net. She’s been on the ice; she’s seen the top team in the conference.”

With a large number of returning players — including most of the scoring — depth will be a key strength.

“I think we’re going to be a little better in the defense,” Nickel said. “Deeper on the lines is what it comes down to. We’ve got enough forwards and defense to build a little bit of depth.

“We’re going to work on confidence, that’s the big thing. That’s the No. 1 thing we’re going to work on is confidence.”

WHS opens its season Tuesday at Mankato West. The first home game is Friday against Waseca.

“We’re taking it one game at a time, preparing them for that game and making sure we help build their confidence among the team where they have confidence in one another and who they playing with,” Peters said.