FAIRMONT - Scoring may not be an issue this season for the Fairmont Area Cardinals girls hockey team.
With two lines of quick, fast and strong forwards, the Cardinals are looking to light up scoreboards all throughout southern Minnesota.
"So far through practice, from what we've seen, we think that our top two lines can skate with probably anyone," said Fairmont Area head coach Scott Kuhl. "All of our forwards are bigger, faster, stronger and have done a great job so far in practice."
ICY RETURN — Members of the Fairmont Area Cardinals girls hockey team opening the season tonight by playing host to Faribault in a 7 p.m. nonconference game at Martin County Arena in Fairmont include, front row (l-r): Sadie Sandersfeld, Myah Lytle, Brooke Lemon, Jalyssa Wilson, Taylor Nuss, Jenna Klages, Brooklyn Healey, Alyssa Fetters and Emily O’Connor. Back row: Kelsy Junkermeier, Erin Rahm, Logyn Cone, Courtney Williams, Tieryn Arens, Lauren Carlson, Jordyn Junkermeier, Cori Emler and Katie Hohensee. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
The Cardinals return 16 players with varsity experience, including last year's most valuable player Brooke Lemon.
Myah Lytle, Logyn Cone, Jalyssa Wilson, Taylor Nuss and Kelsy Junkermeier will join Lemon on the ice and all bring firepower to the top two lines.
"Across the board, all the girls have shown so much growth in every area. Their skill levels, they're taller and are bigger," said Kuhl. "These two lines are tenacious with their speed and their forecheck - they will be tough to stop."
Jenna Klages, the Cardinals' lone captain, will take charge of the blue line defensively, with help from the likes of Cone, Lauren Carlson, Tieryn Arens and Courtney Williams.
"I think that Klages is going to play a big part for us this year on defense," said Kuhl. "Just like the others, she has gotten better since last season and she handles the puck well. She is going to really be helpful in getting the puck up to the forwards and stopping the other team's rushes."
Freshman Sadie Sandersfeld is the lone returning goalie with varsity experience, who is hoping to keep opponents from sending pucks through the crease.
The Cardinals, who finished 6-13 overall last season, are hoping that their added firepower will help them win their first South Central Conference game in four years.
"We are trying to shoot for a higher section seed this season," said Kuhl. "For us, winning the conference this season is a big deal, that is our most important goal. Waseca and St. Peter are the first conference teams on our radar."
The first opponent to cause the Cardinals some concern this season will be nonconference opponent Faribault in tonight's 7 p.m. season-opener at Martin County Arena in Fairmont.
The Cardinals then play host to Marshall in a 7 p.m. nonconference game on Thursday night before Windom Area ventures to Martin County Arena next Tuesday.
Fairmont Area plays host to New Ulm in its conference opener on Dec. 3, before hosting the St. Peter Saints on Dec. 5.
"This season, for the first time for me as a coach, we will be able to run three complete lines," said Kuhl. "The abilities of our lower two lines will allow us to give our top two lines a bit of a break. They won't be taxed as much and we can keep the pressure up."
Alyssa Fetters, Cori Emler and Katie Hohensee will try to provide some of that cushion for the third line for the Cardinals.
With the added depth and skill, the Cardinals are looking to challenge opponents from end line to end line all season long.
"I think this could be an interesting and exciting year for us," said Kuhl. "We have a lot of experience and talent on the ice for us and I think we have a good chance to really be successful."