Prep hockey: Luverne sweeps Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- There wasn't much that could stop Makayla Sterrett or Jaxon Nelson Tuesday night. Sterrett scored six goals to lead the Luverne girls hockey team to a 13-0 win over Worthington, while Nelson found the net five times as the Cardinal...

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AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Luverne’s Jaxon Nelson (7) skates away from the Worthington defense during the Cardinals’ 16-1 Big South Conference win. Nelson finished with five goals and one assist.

WORTHINGTON - There wasn’t much that could stop Makayla Sterrett or Jaxon Nelson Tuesday night.
Sterrett scored six goals to lead the Luverne girls hockey team to a 13-0 win over Worthington, while Nelson found the net five times as the Cardinal boys hockey team completed the sweep with a 16-1 victory over the Trojans.
Chaz Smedsrud said he’s always been able to move the puck well.
And Tuesday was one of the best examples of his skill.
The senior forward on Luverne’s boys hockey team had six assists as the Cardinals rolled past Worthington.
“My whole life I’ve always moved the puck pretty well,” Smedsrud said. “I always see the ice and I know where people are when they are breaking to the net. It really helps out the team when I can have six assists like I did tonight.”
He assisted on all five of Jaxon Nelson’s goals.
“It’s nice, we work well together and know where each other are,” Nelson said of Smedsrud. “I just wait in the high slot and when he gets the puck I just kind of sink down lower into the open area and he finds me.”
Kasyn Kruse scored first for the Cardinals with an assist from Erik Tofteland (four assists) as Luverne led 1-0 less than four minutes into the game.
However, Worthington’s Tony Lopez answered with a goal as the score was tied early on.
“I think we woke them up,” WHS head coach Paul Olsen said. “We said we know who they are, let’s just go out and play our game and see what we can do. When you have a team that’s that fast and they work as well together as they do, it’s really hard to stop them. We tried the best we could.”
Luverne’s Brennan Hart scored on an assist from Tofteland less than a minute later before Nelson scored his first goal of the night, giving LHS a 3-1 lead.
“The first period was kind of slow,” Nelson said. “But we picked it up toward the end of the first period and carried it into the second period. We did pretty well though. We just had to pick it up and move our feet to make the simple plays.”
Jesse Reed scored for the Cardinals and Nelson scored two more in the first period as Luverne led 6-1 at the first intermission.
“Once they got that first goal, we kind of said on the bench that we need to pick it up and we need to get going,” Smedsrud said. “I think we responded pretty well to it and that helped our team out I think.”
Nelson started the second with a goal before Nick Harder scored, Nick Behrend scored twice and Nelson found the net once again as the Cardinals let 11-1 after two periods.
“I had some decent shots in the slots that I buried,” Nelson said. “You just have to keep patient and do what you’re supposed to do; keep it simple and move the puck.”
Kruse scored his second goal of the game to open the third period before Declan Beers (three assists), Tofteland, Jack Baustian and Hart scored as Luverne scored 16 goals on 66 shots in the game.
“They can bury the puck pretty well and that goes with practice,” Smedsrud said. “We practice a lot of shots. We always hit our spots, so that helps out a lot when you can make that pass and they bury it.”
The Cardinals (16-5) host New Ulm on Friday.
“At this time of the year, we’re trying to hone a lot of those things right now,” LHS head coach Kullen Schroht said. “One of the big things with us right now is we’re trying to bring all the pieces together. After the game like this, there are some things you can always look back at and get better at.”
The following week, playoffs begin where the Cardinals are hoping to make a run toward the state tournament. After qualifying two years ago, Luverne was upset in the section tournament last season.
“It definitely comes with pressure,” Smedsrud said. “I think we have the people in the locker room and the coaches that can handle that pressure. We haven’t handled it too well this year because we haven’t had any big wins. I think we’re having pretty good practices and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”
Luverne 6 5 5 - 16
Worthington 1 0 0 - 1
It took Makayla Sterrett less than 10 minutes to complete her hat trick.
But that wasn’t enough for the senior forward for Luverne’s girls hockey team.
She finished with six goals on the night, while teammate Mariah Aukes added three more as the Cardinals defeated Worthington.
“I think we played well,” Aukes said. “We worked well together as a team. We had a lot of puck movement when we had an opportunity. We set our minds to playing our game and playing the way we know how to play.”
Sterrett needed nine minutes and 56 seconds to score the first three goals of the game.
“In the summers I put in a lot of time with summer hockey,” Sterrett said. “I go and play up north. I just shoot to score. It feels good, but you wouldn’t be able to do it without everyone helping you out.”
Madison Crabtree scored Luverne’s next goal before Aukes found the net for the first time.
“We read each other,” Sterrett said. “We are telepathic almost on the ice because we’ve played so long together.”
Sterrett then scored her fourth and fifth goal of the period.
“She’s a special player,” LHS head coach Tony Sandbulte said. “She’s a senior leader for us and she’s playing like that. We’ll take her efforts every night.”
Aukes added one more in the period as Luverne scored eight times in the first 17 minutes.
“They kind of outskated us and we were sneaking in behind us,” WHS eighth-grader Hannah Barrie said. “We weren’t realizing it. We just said that we need to stop chasing after the puck and we need to be more aggressive to get the puck.”
Aukes, Madisyn Dingmann and Crabtree each scored in the second, and Sterrett and Madilyn Oye each added a goal in the third.
“We have been playing some pretty good hockey as of late,” Sandbulte said. “We just kind of keep building and building. And hopefully we’re peaking at the right time and we can kind of carry some momentum into playoffs. The girls are hungry right now. They are working really hard and things are falling our way. It always comes back to that hard work and eventually you get the bounce.”
Luverne (18-5) plays a big game Friday in New Ulm before beginning the section tournament.
“We’ll keep working as a team,” Sterrett said. “We all have the same goal in the end. This is our last year that we can really pull through and make it happen. It won’t just be for us, it will be for all the girls who have graduated and have been so close.”
The Trojans host Windom Thursday in their final regular-season game.
“The girls always love to play Windom,” WHS head coach Eric Milbrath said. “They are always amped up to play. Last week when we played them, we played two good periods and the third period we were flat.”
Luverne 8 3 2 - 13
Worthington 0 0 0 - 0
New Ulm 9, Windom Area 1
NEW ULM - Ethan Kraus scored three times and Brandon Mehlhop had three assists to lead New Ulm past Windom Area Tuesday night in a boys hockey game.
Windom Area’s lone goal came from Jesse Pigman in the first period. He was assisted by Curtis Pell.
Peter Ignaszewski made 26 saves for WA, while Adam Larson made 13 saves for New Ulm.
WA 1 0 0 - 1
New Ulm 3 3 3 - 9

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AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Luverne’s Makayla Sterrett (16) races Worthington for the puck Tuesday against Worthington. She finished with six goals.

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Outstanding outside shooting helped the Eagles beat Worthington in Worthington, 82-68