Crookston girls' hockey season in review
This article is the fifth in a series recapping the winter sports season for Crookston High School and the University of Minnesota Crookston. Previously: UMC women's basketball, UMC hockey, UMC men's basketball, Crookston boys' basketball. Today: Crookston girls' hockey.
Towards the end of the 2021 season, Crookston girls' hockey coach Tim Moe admitted that the Pirates' breakthrough effort in 2020 — 12 wins and a playoff win for the first time in five years — surprised some players.
Crookston's long rebuilding process after a stretch of down years wasn't supposed to pay off so suddenly, with an eight-win improvement from the previous season. But here the Pirates were, a year removed from a long-awaited breakthrough, and the next step in their rebuild beckoned.
Not everything about Crookston's 2021 season screams improvement. The Pirates' winning percentage dropped slightly, from .462 to .448. They were outscored by their opponents by 19 goals. They still had little chance at competing with Section 8A powerhouse Warroad.
But the Pirates' most recent campaign still felt like another stride in the right direction. While their record barely budged, it barely budged against a schedule significantly tougher than last year: Crookston's opponents had a combined winning percentage close to .500, compared to last year's .400 slate.
The Pirates consistently outshot their opponents and controlled possession against all but the best teams on their schedule. They beat East Grand Forks for the first time since 2012; battled Thief River Falls — a team it also hadn't beaten for nearly a decade — hard in four games against the Prowlers. They earned the No. 3 seed in the Section 8A Tournament, their highest seed since 2011.
With seniors Catherine Tiedemann, Kenze Epema and Nora Peterson setting the tone, Crookston's young talent continued to develop. Addie Fee, Aleah Bienek and Reese Swanson formed a dangerous second line towards the end of the season. Kailee Magsam impressed in her first season as starting goaltender.
The Pirates' biggest strength was their depth: 15 players registered at least one point, and Moe routinely went with three lines and three pairings of defenseman. This made for a fast, often suffocating forecheck that gave Crookston even more of an identity than it had last season.
- Record: 8-10-1, 3-5-1 Section 8A
- Regular season: third in Section 8A
- Postseason: lost 5-4 at Thief River Falls in Section 8A semifinal
- Team stats: 45 goals, 64 goals allowed, 556 shots on goal, 390 shots on goal allowed
- Statistical leaders: Nora Peterson (9 goals, 6 assists), Reese Swanson (9 goals, 5 assists), Addie Fee (7 goals, 5 assists), Catherine Tiedemann (6 goals, 3 assists), Kenze Epema (1 goal, 7 assists), Aleah Bienek (2 goals, 5 assists), Cassie Solheim (1 goal, 6 assists), Kailee Magsam (8-10-1, .842 save percentage, 3.18 goals allowed per game)
- Seniors: Catherine Tiedemann, Kenze Epema, Nora Peterson
- All-Section: Kenze Epema, Nora Peterson (second team), Catherine Tiedemann, Rylee Solheim (honorable mention)
Crookston had a bit of a flair for the dramatic this season. Its Senior Night win in overtime against Fergus Falls, in which all three of its seniors teamed up on the game-winning goal, stands out as a highlight, as does Jenna Seaver's late game-winning goal against West Fargo.
In terms of individual performances, Peterson had a hat trick against International Falls, and Swanson had one of her own against Detroit Lakes in February. Tiedemann scored three goals against Bemidji later that month.
But the lasting image of the Pirates' season probably won't be any of those. Instead, it's Tiedemann's game-winning goal with 25 seconds left against East Grand Forks on Feb. 2, which broke a scoreless tie and snapped an 18-game losing streak to their rivals.
"Just overwhelmed," Tiedemann described her emotions afterwards. "It's a great feeling finally beating EGF. ... It's what we've been working for."
Epema, Peterson and Tiedemann are big losses. Epema was a consistent presence along the blue line, while Peterson and Tiedemann gave the first forward line scoring and experience.
But the rest of this year's team, bringing plenty of skill with them, will be back next year.
Swanson and Fee were Crookston's second and third-leading scorers as just a freshman and eighth-grader, respectively. They, along with Brekken Tull, Cassie Solheim and others, figure to be the Pirates' offensive stars for the foreseeable future. Crookston might also get help from Raina Satrom, a forward from Mayville who was second on the team in scoring as an eighth-grader last season but decided to play basketball in North Dakota this year due to uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rylee Solheim, an All-Section 8A Honorable Mention defenseman, will return along with fellow senior Dillynn Wallace. They should anchor a deep Crookston defensive corps along with an improving Magsam, who played every minute in goal for the Pirates in just her third season playing hockey ever.
Moe noted on many occasions that Crookston will need to gain strength and physicality in front of the net to score more goals. The Pirates often outshot opponents and used speed to blow past them, but a lack of size and experience made finishing off opportunities a challenge at times.
That's a problem that figures to correct itself in part with time. While the Pirates are still a step or four behind Warroad in Section 8A (they fell 14-0 to the Warriors in January), they asserted themselves ahead of section foes Detroit Lakes and East Grand Forks this winter and are making up the gap on Thief River Falls fast.
The Pirates might not be able to traverse the gulf between them and Warroad next season or even the year after. But that doesn't mean their future is any less promising, as long as their young, skilled players continue maturing at their present rate.
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