FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area head coach Scott Kuhl's Cardinal girls hockey team could adopt the moniker of Road Warriors after taking a glance at the early stages of its 2012-13 schedule.
"Our first five games of the season are on the road, so we won't be home until Dec. 6," Kuhl said in reference to the Cardinals' long-awaited home-opener against Marshall at Martin County Arena in Fairmont.
The Cardinals get the bus wheels rolling tonight by traveling to Albert Lea for a 7:30 p.m. nonconference season-opener before hitting the road to Marshall on Thursday; Luverne on Tuesday, Nov. 27; Waseca on Thursday, Nov. 29; and New Ulm on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
ICY RETURN — Members of the Fairmont Area Cardinal girls hockey team opening the season against the Albert Lea Tigers at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Albert Lea City Arena include, front row (l-r): Miranda O’Connor and Sadie Sandersfeld. Middle row: Brooklyn Healey, Jordyn Junkermeier, Alyssa Fetters, Kelsy Junkermeier, Taylor Nuss, Myah Lytle, Brooke Lemon, Jalyssa Wilson and Abby Rahm. Back row: Assistant coach John Korsmo, Jenna Klages, Lauren Carlson, Logyn Cone, Tieryn Arens, Erin Rahm, Katie Hohensee, assistant coach Casey Kester, Cori Emler and head coach Scott Kuhl. Photo by Leanna Becker
"We'll use our season-opener as a measuring stick of where we're at, and then take it from there," said Kuhl.
Ironically, Kuhl's 18-player Road Warrior roster will be comprised of 15 skaters who are not even old enough to apply for a driver's license.
"We are extremely young again, but talented, too. We have a lot more depth than in past years, and have most of our scoring coming back from last season," said Kuhl, whose program's youth movement produced a 9-14 overall record, including a Section 3 quarterfinal victory over Worthington, during 2011-12. "We're a year older, so one of our goals is to be more competitive in the section and close the gap between us and the top."
Freshman forward Jalyssa Wilson, freshman forward Brooke Lemon and senior forward Abby Rahm will comprise Fairmont Area's first line in tonight's opener after the trio proved driving forces behind the Cardinals' 80-goal campaign a year ago.
Wilson topped the red-and-white goal-scoring performance with 19 to complement 10 assists, while Lemon - the 2011-12 team MVP - paced the Cardinals with 16 assists to go with a third-best 10 goals. Abby Rahm distributed the team's No. 2 total in helpers (13) to complement six goals.
Sophomore goaltender Miranda O'Connor returns between the pipes after recording 368 saves, including a game-high 42 against Section 3 champion New Ulm, to spearhead the defense.
Freshman Tieryn Arens, who generated a second-best team total of 15 goals to go with four assists last season, and freshman Logyn Cone will round out the Cardinals' starting defense tonight. Cone generated seven assists and three goals last season.
Eighth-grader Taylor Nuss, freshman Kelsy Junkermeier and eighth-grader Myah Lytle will represent the second line's forwards, with sophomore Jenna Klages and eighth-grader Lauren Carlson filling the defender positions.
Kelsy Junkermeier tallied seven assists and one goal during 2011-12, while Klages chipped in seven assists and three goals.
"Our overall team speed and a new thing known as 'depth' will be our strengths this season, in addition to having the bulk of our scoring back," said Kuhl. "The development of our young players' overall skills and finding systems that fit our age group are a couple of things that we're working on."
Eighth-grader Sadie Sandersfeld will be the Cardinals' backup goalie; while freshman forwards Erin Rahm (five goals and three assists), Jordyn Junkermeier (one goal and four assists), Brooklyn Healey (five goals and six assists) and Katie Hohensee (three assists and one goal); eighth-grade forward Cori Emler; and seventh-grade forward Alyssa Fetters complete the roster.
"Overall, I'm encouraged by what we've got on the ice now, and the potential of our players in the future," said Kuhl.
John Korsmo and Casey Kester return as assistant coaches for the Cardinals.