Another hockey season is about to get underway and once again Pirate Girls' Hockey is looking to make another run at the Section 8A title.
The Pirates, ranked No. 12 in the latest Class A poll by the Associated Press, do have their share of question marks, however, under Co-Head Coaches Jeff Perreault and Jeremy Lubinski. The anchors are in place, though, with three exceptional seniors Brianna Breiland, Natasha Skala and Kaitlin Spivey along with a strong junior class and up and coming youngsters. Captains this season are Breiland, Skala and junior Amber Trostad.
Breiland, Skala and junior forward Brooke Schmitz are from Red Lake Falls, playing with the Pirates thanks to a co-op. Junior Claire Conati comes to the Pirates on a co-op with Fisher.
Coach Perreault is in his first year and Coach Lubinski is in his third year. They are joined by assistant coaches Jaclyn Martin and Jake Sanders.
Breiland put up 61 points last season (45 goals, 15 assists) in 27 games. She has received Division I interest and will be the focus of Crookston's opponents.
"We expect points from her," said Coach Martin. "She's a leader on and off the ice. She not only has an influence on her linemates but the whole team. She sets the tone for the team and if she goes out and has a good first shift and a good first period the team feeds off that."
Skala, who had 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) in 27 games last season, will log a lot of minutes at the blue line for the Pirates.
"Natasha's asset is her consistency. She always gives 110 percent. You never see her take a shift off," Coach Martin said. "She is a captain this year and was last year so her leadership is big. She's going to be our go-to defenseman. Her footwork is very nice and her shot is very good. She gets it and rips it right away. On the power play she'll be someone we look for to get one-timers."
Spivey will join Skala on the blue line as the two most experienced blue liners.
Freshman Tori Demarais also returns at the defensive position, while freshman Nicole Goosen, who was injured most of last season, and junior Rachel Kanten will be a factor this year.
Another freshman, Sabrina Delorme, could log minutes at both the blue line and at forward. She posted 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) last year and will be looked too to post big numbers this year.
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Breiland will center the top line with freshman Leah Trostad at one wing and Delorme at the other wing.
The second line will be centered by junior Lizzy Awender, who had 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) last season.
The top wings will be Amber Trostad, who had 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) last season, freshman Marietta Geist, who put up 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) last season, and Schmitz, who recorded ten points (5 goals, 5 assists) last year.
Other forwards that will see time this season include: junior Claire Conati, sophomore Abby Parr, freshman Annie Hajostek and eighth graders Macy Strem and Maddie Nicholls.
"A lot of younger kids could see ice time," said Coach Martin. "There are some unknowns right now. They'll get their chances and we'll see."
Eighth graders Jayden Allrich and Kendall Wahouske and seventh grader Ally Tiedemann could play at both forward and defense.
In fact, Coach Martin said even Breiland may see time at the blue line if necessary.
"The girls have to know both the D and forward spots. They could play anywhere," she explained.
At the goalie position lies the largest question mark. Junior Erica Allrich and Sidney Erickson each saw minimal time in net last season behind Rachel Biermaier, who graduated. They are being pushed, however, by eighth grader Lexi Cormican.
"The position is up for grabs," said Martin. "All three will get the same look every day in practice. We are having quizzes on the playbook this year so they'll also have to have knowledge of the game too. Everyone will get a chance at the varsity spot. We may go with this goalie for a while and maybe switch if one's looking good in practice."
Whoever the Pirate goalie is, she will have her hands full with ten games scheduled this season against ranked opponents, including Warroad, the top ranked team in Class A, Thief River Falls at No. 6 in Class A, Roseau No. 8 in Class AA and White Bear Lake No. 18 in Class AA.
"Lisa Marvin and the Gardner girls are back for Warroad. They'll be a tough team as always," said Coach Martin. "Thief River Falls has some good young players back from last year. East Grand Forks has same kind of thing, strong returners. It all comes down to the end of the year, to be peaking at the right time. Right now it's about figuring out what lines and systems work. Come the end of December, though, we'll want to be gelling on and off the ice and doing the right things."
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The season starts with a flurry of three games in five days.
The Pirates take on Brainerd tonight before hosting White Bear Lake Saturday at 3 p.m. at Crookston Sports Center. On Tuesday the Pirates will be on the road in Thief River Falls to face the Prowlers.