DL girls' hockey team finds offense just in time
It took just over half a season for the Detroit Lakes girls' hockey team to uncork its offense, but there's no better time than the present.
Doing most of the "popping" have been Detroit Lakes first-line duo of senior forward Kelsey Grabow and junior forward Maggie Raboin.
The two have combined to scored nine goals and dish out six assists in a four-game span, in which the Lakers won three out of four, garnering 12 goals as a team.
The final three games were victories for DL, which signified several positives for the team. First, it gives the Lakers much forward momentum heading into the Section 3-1A playoffs, which start Tuesday.
Secondly, confidence is brewing more and more as the Lakers have discovered a scoring touch, something which was absent for much of the first half of the season.
Thirdly, the Lakers finish the season where they were not at all during the schedule -- above .500. With the three-game winning streak to cap the regular season, the Lakers finish the season with a 12-11-1 record.
DL also clinched its seventh Mid-State Conference championship with a win over Park Rapids Jan. 31. The Lakers now have won the conference title seven out of the last eight years -- with last year being the lone year without it.
"It was a good feeling to get that back," said DL head coach Dan Maloney of recapturing the Mid-State banner.
The theme of the season has been "steady progress."
And that's exactly what the young Laker crew did, steadily improve and finally breaking out towards the end of the season to capture a three seed in the south half of Section 3-1A. The Lakers will host sixth-seeded Eveleth-Gilbert Tuesday inside Kent Freeman Arena, beginning at 7 p.m.
It's been the resurgence of the Laker offense which has been key to the recent Laker's winning ways. With Raboin and Grabow cashing in on opportunities, the Lakers have been pulling out victories over Thief River Falls Thursday by the score of 4-1, against East Grand Forks 3-2 Saturday and versus Park Rapids Jan. 31 by the mark of 4-2.
DL dropped a close one in Crookston 3-1.
"Our wingers have been in better sync and the offense seems more relaxed," Maloney said. "The biggest area of improvement is the percentage of scoring on our shots on goal. It's a dramatic improvement from the start of the season."
It's helped that Raboin and Grabow have been finding the back of the net, as well. But not only that, DL's passing is a century ahead of where it was at the start of the season.
"Early in the season, they were fighting tooth and nail to score," Maloney said. "It's a great credit to the kids they kept on pounding and grinding and not giving up."
Defensively, the Lakers have improved in front of solid goaltending by Janaye Johnson.
"The defense is tying up well with (opponents' forwards) in front of the net," Maloney said. "They've battled hard to get (the offense) out of the slot."
Goalie saves day for DL in EGF
Johnson also has been an important cog in keeping the Lakers in games.
Case in point, the Lakers were outshot in East Grand Forks by a 28-11 margin, but still pulled off the 3-2 victory. Johnson saved 14 in the first period to keep the game scoreless.
Raboin eventually would notch the winning goal with just under a minute to go, snapping a 2-2 tie. She also scored to open the third to give DL a 2-0 lead, along with Courtney Ackerson's second-period goal, before EGF stormed back with two consecutive goals in the third to tie the game.
"The girls were tired in this game because they had a lot of games played in a short amount of time," the DL coach said. "But they found a way to win."
The EGF win was followed by the Mid-State clinching win in Park Rapids.
DL scored two goals in each of the first and second periods, with a Grabow goal and an Erica Johnson tally putting the Lakers up 2-0.
The Panthers made a comeback, tying the game in the second period, but Raboin converted an unassisted goal in the third. Grabow put in the insurance score with 5:44 remaining with the assist coming off of Sophia Wagner's stick.
"In the third period, the girls just went out and took care of business," Maloney said. "They controlled the puck well and Janaye Johnson had another good night in net (with 31 saves)."
DL caps season with revenge victory
The improvement made by the Laker girls can be gauged in their last game of the season, beating a visiting Thief River Falls team 4-1, after losing earlier in the year 3-1.
Johnson would keep the Lakers above water in a scoreless first period with 10 saves.
That would be enough for the Lakers to jump on the Prowler in the second as a Raboin took a Grabow pass at the TRF blue line, outskated two Prowler defenders and veering across the slot to put the puck uppershelf for the 1-0 lead.
TRF tied the game on a one-on-one move by Mauri Gonsorowski, beating Johnson for the 1-1 knot.
First-line forward Wagner broke the TRF momentum with a score just 23 seconds later on a rebound goal on a Grabow shot to give DL the 2-1 advantage heading into the final intermission.
The Lakers would use special teams to lock up the win, as Grabow converted a short-handed tally off the left-side faceoff, quickly poking the puck past Hermanson after Raboin was first on the puck drop.
Raboin also took a faceoff goal to secure the lead, this time on a power play opportunity for her second goal and fourth point in the game.
"Maggie probably has scored more points in the last five games than she had all season," Maloney said. "Overall, the girls have found a way to find the net and that's bringing confidence in them."
The Lakers are in the top-seeded Hibbing bracket. If DL is victorious Tuesday, they will face the winner between No. 2 Silver Bay and No. 7 Babbitt. The second round game will be hosted by the high seed and will be played Thursday at 7 p.m.
The semifinals will be held at a neutral site, while the championship game will be Thursday, Feb. 16, at Thief River Falls at 7 p.m.
Thief River Falls at Detroit Lakes, Thursday, Feb. 2.
Prowlers 0 1 0 - 1
Lakers 0 2 2 -- 4
First period -- No scoring.
Second period -- 1. DL, Maggie Raboin (Kelsey Grabow) 3:25; 2. TRF, Mauri Gonsorowski (UA) 10:27; 3. DL, Sophia Wagner (Grabow, Raboin) 10:50.
Third period -- 4. DL, SH Grabow (Raboin) 12:14; 5. DL, PP Raboin (UA) 16:12.
Saves -- DL (Janaye Johnson) 10 9 8 - 27...TRF (Brandi Hermanson) 7 4 3 - 14.
Detroit Lakes at East Grand Forks, Saturday, Jan. 28.
Lakers 0 1 2 - 3
Green Wave 0 0 2 - 2
First period -- No scoring.
Second period -- 1. DL, Courtney Ackerson (Erica Johnson, Britt Raftevold) 14:54.
Third period -- 2. DL, Raboin (Grabow) 5:25; 3. EGF, Emily Pecka (Jamie Utzinger) 7:06; 4. EGF, Pecka (Chelsea Morin) 14:39; 5. DL, Raboin (Grabow) 16:21.
Saves -- DL (Johnson) 14 8 4 - 26...EGF (Heidi Jenkins) 3 2 3 - 8.
Detroit Lakes at Park Rapids, Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Lakers 2 0 2 - 4
Panthers 1 1 0 - 2
First period -- 1. DL, Grabow (Katy Waisanen) 10:27; 2. DL, Erica Johnson (Jayne Harms) 10:02; 3. PR, Jessica Christofferson (Kaylyn Naeve) 5:27.
Second period -- 4. PR, Christofferson (UA) 12:47.
Third period -- 5. DL, Raboin (UA) 11:02; 6. DL, Grabow (Wagner) 5:44.
Saves -- DL (J. Johnson) 8 12 11 - 31...PR (Cassandra Thelen/Weaver) 12 16 12 - 40.
Detroit Lakes at Crookston, Thursday, Jan. 26.
Lakers 0 0 1 - 1
Pirates 2 0 1 -- 3
First period -- 1. Crk, Marlee Wheelhouse (Hannah Solheim) 9:02; 2. Crk, Janessa DeBuer (Wheelhouse) 15:34.
Second period -- No scoring.
Third period -- 3. Crk, Wheelhouse (Erika Wheelhouse) 1:00; 4. DL, PP Grabow (Gena Paskey) 13:06.
Saves -- DL (J. Johnson) 8 14 16 - 38...Crk (Savannah Osborn) 6 2 5 - 13.