Cardinal girls hockey team to hit ice early at Albert Lea

ICY RETURN — Members of the 2021-22 Fairmont Area Cardinals girls hockey team opening the season by traveling to Albert Lea on Thursday night for a 7 p.m. game include, front row (l-r): Brittney Lopau, Abigail Sundeen, Maia Goerndt, Rachel O’Connor, Hadley Artz, Macy Militello, Bella Larson and Hannah Goerndt. Middle row: Head coach Ashley Olson, Reese Olson, Alex Martin, Keara Flanagan, Kate Hagen, Lily Truesdell, Karissa Newville, Alexis Newville, Mackenzie Householder and assistant coach Eric Householder. Back row: Madison Sokoloski, Jadyn Musser, Brooklyn Murphy, Shaye Dietz, Emily Sokoloski, Jozie Hoefker, Corene Moeller and Lilly Meyers. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — With only a handful of practices under their skates before opening the season at Albert Lea at 7 p.m. Thursday, Fairmont Area head girls hockey coach Ashley Olson appreciates having a roster with 22 skaters and two goalies on it.

“We normally get two full weeks or more on the ice before playing our first game, so we’ve had to make some adjustments to our practices to get the girls ready for actual competition,” said Olson, whose team netted a 5-13 overall record in a Covid-condensed 2020-21 campaign. “Typically, we’d spend a lot more time on conditioning during the first week and a half, but with a quick turnaround, we’ve had to get into systems practice by the end of the first week.

“I guess my mindset is, if we’re playing this early, then it means Albert Lea is playing with a short preparation time, too, so let’s do this.”

Ironically, Olson faces a rare dilemma entering her sixth season at the Cardinals’ hockey helm — 24 players on her roster, but the Minnesota State High School League allows only 20 to dress at a time.

“Since some players won’t dress every game, it’ll definitely give more intensity to practices with something to work for,” said Olson. “I’m planning on playing four lines and three sets of defense, and then adjust from there.”

Three-time all-Big South Conference selection Mackenzie Householder returns to Martin County Arena for her senior campaign after leading the Cardinals in scoring last winter.

The Concordia College in Moorhead hockey commit produced 19 points, including a team-best 13 goals to complement a co-team-high six assists, during her abbreviated junior season.

“We’ll have Mackenzie focus more on playing defense this year since that’s where she’ll play at the next level,” said Olson. “That’s not to say we won’t use her grit and determination on offense at times.”

Junior Corene Moeller returns to pair with the hard-checking Householder on defense, with seniors Alexis Newville and Macy Militello working into the mix. Sophomore Shaye Dietz, who logged numerous minutes a year ago, also returns to the defense, along with sophomore Jozie Hoefker.

Junior Hadley Artz returns between the pipes after recording 532 saves and two shutouts in solo net duty last winter, while senior Rachel O’Connor returns to the girls roster after tending goal for Fairmont Area’s boys program in 2020-21.

Sophomore Bella Larson, junior Hannah Goerndt and eighth-grader Brooklyn Murphy will work a shift together on the frontline, while senior Emily Sokoloski will spearhead another offensive line along with a pair of eighth-graders in Lily Truesdell and Maia Goerndt.

Larson represents the Cardinals’ second-best point producer at 11 behind five goals and a co-team-best six assists, Alexis Newville brings back 10 points, while Emily Sokoloski returns nine points to the charts.

Sophomores Karissa Newville and Alex Martin, along with eighth-grader Jadyn Musser, look to have the inside track on being Olson’s third forward line.

“We’ve got an interesting mix of players, with five seniors and seven eighth-graders,” said Olson. “I’d like to consistently run three lines a game and maybe get a little more gas out of the tank than last season.”

Freshmen Brittney Lopau, Keara Flanagan and Abi Sundeen, along with eighth-graders Lilly Meyers, Madison Sokoloski and Kate Hagen, and sophomore Reese Olson round out the Cardinals’ roster.

“I’d just like to get to a place where we’re competitive game in and game out,” said Olson. “I think our program is moving in the right direction. Now we just have to get all the pieces to fit.”

Eric Householder and Ben Olson return as assistant coaches for Ashley Olson for the Cardinals’ upcoming winter campaign.


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