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Cardinals to open girls hockey season on the road

ICY RETURN — Members of the 2022-23 Fairmont Area Cardinals girls hockey team opening the season at Waseca tonight include, front row (l-r): Jazzleene Lopez, Frankie Martin, Hayden Newville, Brittney Lopau, Kate Hagen, Alex Martin, Maia Goerndt and Keara Flanagan. Middle row: Noemi Boffa, Reese Olson, Lily Truesdell, Abigail Sundeen, Addie Folkerts, Hadley Artz, Ilana Moeller, Isabella Larson, Carly Gustafson, Joslyn Meyer and Karissa Newville. Back row: Assistant coach Aaron Haycraft, Harper Artz, Brooklyn Murphy, Shaye Dietz, head coach Eric Householder, Corene Moeller, Jozie Hoefker, Hannah Goerndt, Madison Sokoloski and assistant coach Josh Newville. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — It’s been a quick progression amid the high school girls hockey coaching ranks for Eric Householder during the past 12 months.

Householder opened the 2021-22 campaign in his familiar role as Fairmont Area’s varsity assistant coach and later was tabbed interim head coach following Ashley Olson’s resignation part-way through the season.

Tonight, Householder and the Cardinals girls hockey lineup hit the road to Waseca for a 7 p.m. Big South Conference game and season-opener in his new official capacity as head coach.

“It’s been a bit of a surprise transition and unexpected, but the end result was taking on a bigger role in the program,” said Householder, whose team plays its home-opener at 7 p.m. Thursday night against Austin at Martin County Arena in Fairmont. “Last year, I just jumped right in after Ashley stepped down, and it was challenging running practices and coaching every aspect during the games without an assistant.

“It proved to be a lot of work, but it was fun and rewarding at the same time.”

Fortunately for Householder, Aaron Haycraft and Josh Newville — experienced coaches within the Fairmont Youth Hockey Association’s club hockey system — have joined his coaching staff this season.

“With two assistant coaches, I’ll be able to manage the game on the ice more this season,” said Householder, who guided Fairmont Area to an 8-14-2 overall record, including a 2-1 Section 3A quarterfinal triumph over Windom Area before losing a 5-0 sectional semifinal to powerhouse New Ulm. “Aaron will run the varsity defense and that should be a good fit since the two of us played it back when we were on the high school team together and have similiar mindsets and philosophies.

“Josh will run the forwards, and will play a significant role coaching the junior varsity.”

With an increase in the prep girls hockey program’s number of players signed up, the Cardinals also will have a junior varsity squad in 2022-23.

“With 26 players on the roster, for the first time in a number of years, we’re able to put together a partial junior varsity schedule,” said Householder. “Now if a player is not quite ready to play varsity, she can build confidence and improve her skills by logging minutes on the junior varsity.

“Now our dilemma as coaches will be figuring out how to distribute the players for the limit of four periods per night.”

Senior captain Hannah Goerndt will return to her center position after scoring six points, paced by four assists, last campaign.

“Hannah was a returning captain from last year’s team, and we will name two more as the season draws closer,” said Householder. “She will center our first line, with Brooklyn Murphy and Bella Larson at the wings.”

Larson hits the arena ice after finishing second on the Cardinals’ statistical charts with 14 points on the strength of a team-best nine assists to go with five goals.

Murphy shared the No. 4 scoring spot on Fairmont Area during her varsity debut as an eighth-grader in 2021-22, and will look to improve on her six goals and two helpers as a freshman.

Senior Corene Moeller will step in where she left off last season — on defense — for the Cardinals.

“Corene was one of our leaders on the blue line last season, and we’re looking for that again this year,” said Householder. “She’ll line up with (junior) Shaye Dietz, who played a lot of minutes last season.

“We’re also looking at (eighth-grader) Harper Artz on defense. She can get into the zone quickly, knows how to backcheck and has speed to catch opposing skaters.”

Freshman Lily Truesdell will round out the Cardinals’ varsity defense during the early stages.

Householder will turn to sophomore Abigail Sundeen to make the transition from wing to center in anchoring his second line.

“She’s really stepped up her game since last season, and will look to gain confidence at the new position with more ice time,” Householder said in reference to Sundeen.

Freshman Maia Goerndt and junior Karissa Newville each will return to the arena and flank Sundeen at the wing positions.

Senior Hadley Artz will return between the pipes after posting 339 stops, an .867 save percentage and a 6-6-1 record in sharing the netminding duties with 2022 FHS graduate Rachel O’Connor last season.

According to Householder, sophomore Ilana Moeller will split her time between serving as a backup to Artz at the varsity level and getting the starting nod in goal on the junior varsity team in 2022-23.

“The first two weeks of practice are basically getting the edges back and knocking the rust off of the skates,” said Householder. “Once we (coaching staff) get our lines figured out, we can start working on systems.

“It’s like having another full-time job, but I just love teaching the game and look forward to the challenge.”

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