Laker Girls Hockey Preview
Before every season starts, the main focus and goal is to be playing your best by the end of the season for the playoffs.
The Detroit Lakes girls' hockey team played that notion to perfection last season, as they qualified for their first-ever state tournament, despite finished the regular season with a 7-11 record.
The Lakers will be designed with a similar blueprint as last season, in that they will be building for another potential long playoff run.
"We have some healthy pressure on us this season and we are not looking at going backwards as a program," said second-year head coach Gretchen Norby. "We know we have the target on our backs, but we are expecting to progress."
There will be plenty of experience returning, especially on the defensive side of the ice, but the Lakers do have a gaping hole to fill after the loss of last year senior and the team's all-time leading scorer in Brianna Seebold.
The team will need to fill 44 points, including 25 goals, which came off the stick of Seebold.
Norby's plan to fill the hole will be with numbers.
"Brin did a lot of good things last year for us," Norby said. "We will be looking at a number of younger kids to fill that void. We will have more spread out scoring this season and might have 10 players scoring five goals, which I don't mind."
The offensive attack will rely on senior forward Emily Payne, who broke out in the section and state playoffs. Payne finished with a third team-high 23 points (nine goals and 14 assists) on the 2011-12 season.
Freshman Hailey Sonstegard also showed the ability to score and will be looked upon as a scoring threat, as well.
"(Sophomore) Randa Larsen will also be counted on, so we have a bit more depth," Norby said. "Right now in practice, we have four lines going and see if we can get a consistent third line going in there."
But the Lakers will be based out of their defense, which brings back senior Callie Johnson and freshman Chandra Johnson.
Callie Johnson was the team's second highest scorer with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists), while Chandra Johnson had 11 points.
"Callie brings a little more finesse and she sees the ice well," Norby said. "My expectations of her is when she has a chance to rush the puck to the net, she will do that."
One of the biggest keys to the Laker's state run last year, though, was the breakout play of sophomore Veronica Badurek.
She came up big against each of Fergus Falls and Alexandria in the section playoffs, while an entire offseason of hard work has made Badurek that much better and confident.
"I see the stability she brings to the position," Norby said. "She is very focused and is internally driven. Her maturity is the biggest key to her improvement and Veronica will be a huge part of our success this season."
Freshman Haileigh Wenger will take on back-up goalie duties, but also brings good talent between the pipes, Norby added.
With a host of young talent also filling in the gaps, the expectations are like never before.
Other returners include Emily Seebold, Hannah Rhodes, Sydney Haman, Molly Hill, Annikka Anderson, Alexis Fritz, Madison Gjersvig, Kjersten Anderson, Kaitlin Murphy and Tarissa Wheeler, while the team will have numerous players coming up from the eighth and ninth grade level.
"Our No. 1 goal is to get back to the section championship game," Norby said. "We always want to be above .500, but we showed last year you don't need that to get to state."
The Lakers will be tested early on, as they open on the road against the other two favorite section teams. DL will be at Fergus Falls Friday for a 7:30 p.m. start and at Alexandria Thursday, Nov. 15.
They open their home schedule against Rocori Friday, Nov. 16.