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Mankato West zips Fairmont Area in Section 3A hockey semifinal

CHIP SHOT — Fairmont Area’s Emily Sokoloski (11) chips a shot toward Mankato West goaltender Sarah Olsen during Section 3A semifinal hockey action Saturday at All Seasons Arena in Mankato. The Cardinals’ Jonissa Neitzel (13) awaits a possible rebound. (Photo by Greg Abel)

MANKATO — A three-goal first period took the wind out of Fairmont Area’s sails.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t play our game today,” Fairmont Area head coach Ashley Olson said. “I know the girls were nervous and Mankato (West) capitalized on a couple of early opportunities. That changed the demeanor, energy and motivation we brought from Thursday’s game against Marshall and we just couldn’t find our way back.”

No. 3-seeded Mankato West beat No. 7-seeded Fairmont Area 5-0 during the Section 3A semifinals, moving the Scarlets on to face No. 1-seeded Luverne in the sectional championship Tuesday night at the Lund Center ice arena on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter.

Luverne beat No. 4-seeded Mankato East/Loyola 6-3 Saturday to gain the Section 3A finals.

Fairmont Area ended its season with an overall record of 8-16-1.

Olson said she was proud of the Cardinals’ season.

“Overall, I have seen a lot of growth and improvement this season, both individually and as a team,” Olson said. “I believe in the future of this program and I am excited for October 2020.”

Molly Grundhoffer got the Scarlets on the scoreboard eight minutes into the first period.

Sunshine Langworthy took a pass from Brooke Pockrandt near mid-ice, then sped up the left-side boards into a 2-on-1 with a Cardinal defender. Langworthy dropped a backdoor pass to Grundhoffer, who hit a one-timer into the right side of the webbing to give Mankato West the initial lead.

Emily Bloemke then used a back pass from Trinity Jackson to hit the right side of the cage with 5:45 left in the first period for a 2-0 margin for Mankato West.

Jackson then collected a pass from Caitlin Hvinden near the Scarlets’ attacking blue line and attempted a slap shot. The shot came off Jackson’s stick awkwardly, creating an odd hop off the ice before it skipped into the net for the Scarlets’ third goal with 1:30 left in the opening segment.

Langworthy put the Scarlets up 4-0 early in the second period when she collected the puck off the side boards, skated by the lone Cardinal defender then deked right-to-left in front of the net and scored with 15:52 remaining in the middle segment.

Bloemke then scored her second goal of the playoff game with 9:34 left off a double helper from Eliana Palesotti and Hope Rademaker to give Mankato West its final five-goal advantage.

Fairmont Area netminder Hadley Artz made 14 saves in the final period to hold Mankato West off the scoreboard during the final 17 minutes.

Mankato West goaltender Sarah Olsen kept the Cardinals off the board with five saves during the third frame.

Artz totalled 34 saves in the matchup, while Olsen made 21 to net the shutout.

The Scarlets outshot the Cardinals 39-21 in the matchup.

Fairmont head coach Ashley Olson said she gave her team a final message after the game.

“I’m proud of this team for the season we had,” Olson said. “Each win and loss was something to learn from. Beating the No. 2 seed (Marshall) and making it to the second round was an accomplishment, but I believe we had more to give today. Stay humble and continue improving.”

Fairmont Area 0-0-0–0

Mankato West 3-2-0–5

Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 9-7-5–21; Mankato West 10-15-14–39.

Saves: Hadley Artz (FA) 7-13-14–34; Sarah Olsen (MW) 9-7-5–21.

Penalties: Fairmont Area 2 for 4 minutes; Mankato West 3 for 6 minutes.

Power-play chances: Fairmont Area 0 for 3; Mankato West 0 for 2.

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