DELANO – With young talent comes ups and downs. With young talent comes learning lessons.
For the Delano girls hockey team, it was a combination of both this past week as they fought through a tough stretch to earn a bounce-back 3-1 victory over Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato Thursday night.
Last week, the Tigers found themselves leading LDC 2-1 after two periods but ending up leaving with a loss. This time around, Delano wasn’t going to let that happen again.
“We’ve been working on a lot of different things after that loss,” Delano coach Jackie Johnson said. “We knew we were the better team. We just didn’t show up last time. For the girls to shake off the last two losses and get to work was nice. You could just tell the energy was different on the bench and in the locker room.”
“I think this just brings our confidence level up a lot more,” freshman forward Brooklyn Gillette added. “Being able to actually win after that just takes us to the next level.”
It wasn’t a perfect start for the Tigers as they came out a little flat-footed. A goal from LDC’s Ella Hansen gave the Dragons an early 1-0 lead, but Delano didn’t panic.
“I thought that after they scored, it brought our intensity up,” Brooklyn Gillette said. “That brought the fire in us. It got us ready to go for the next goal.”
Gillette and the Tigers would respond in a big way. She would have one of the two assists on the tying goal by Carmer Mannor. Then just two minutes later, Kali Schmidt would score the go-ahead goal for the Tigers giving them a 2-1 lead.
“Besides the first five minutes where we kind of were dull, we responded well,” Johnson said. “To have that and see that was definitely a huge positive.”
Back in the same spot they were in just six days ago, Delano finished things off this time. There was no third-period letdown as they controlled the pace of the game throughout to get the bounce-back win.
“It’s always hard because you know teams are never going to give up,” Johnson said. “They’re going to come out there. Everyone wants to win. Everyone is out there for the same reason. I think tonight was a great exclamation point for us to finish a game strong. That’s one thing we’re working on.”We played a complete game.”
LDC had a chance in the opening minutes of the third period to tie things up, but it was freshman goalie Kayla Simonson who came up big for the Tigers.
“It’s amazing,” Gillette said about having Simonson in goal. “She’s a really solid goalie. Having her in net is a key. She won’t let anything past her.”
Simonson was tested early in the third period on a breakaway by Hansen who was looking for her second goal of the night. Instead, Simonson came up with another big save, keeping Delano in front.
“A lot of momentum was on our side,” Johnson said. “We played a really good second period but just didn’t convert. On that breakaway, Kayla made a big save and that was huge for us. That kind of woke us up a bit. It’s only 2-1.”
While Simonson delivered on her end with the save, her teammates answered back. A goal from Gillette just minutes after the big save pushed Delano’s lead to two with just under 15 minutes left to play.
“We needed to make something happen,” Johnson said. “To convert there was definitely a huge moment.”
LDC’s Avery Stilwell did all she could for the Dragons to keep them in the game. She made 27 saves in net for the Dragons, keeping her team in it despite them getting outshot 30-12.
“That goalie (Stilwell) is so good,” Johnson said. “That game could have easily been 6-1 or more. She’s a great goalie. She’s really good down low. She’s definitely their backbone.”
For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Feb. 19 edition of the Delano Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.
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