By BRAD SALMEN
The Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato girls hockey team continued to show huge strides under third-year co-head coaches Brett Damerow and Matt Hogg.
Two years ago, LDC finished the season with two wins (2-23).
Last season, the Dragons quadrupled that total to eight (8-16-2).
This season, for the first time in over a decade, Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato finished with a winning record of 13-12-1.
The team entered the postseason as the number #5 seed in Section 2A, and lost to #4 Delano 3-2 in the quarterfinals.
However, the future continues to look bright for the Dragons.
While LDC will lose their two top scorers in Sophia Hillmann (8-17-25) and Alyssa Olson (13-7-20), the team will return eight out of the next top 10 scorers for next year.
In addition, the Dragons get to keep perhaps their biggest asset for one more season – goaltender Avery Stilwell.
Stilwell, a third-year starter as a junior, put up phenomenal numbers this year, including a .939 save percentage (fourth-best statewide), and a 2.25 Goals Against Average.
To top it all off, the team continued to shine off the ice as well. The Dragons repeated as Section 2A Academic Team Champions, an award they have received for each of the last four seasons.
Coach Hogg provided the following comments from this season.
Seniors this past season:
• Sophia Hillmann
• Alyssa Olson
• Grace Walsh
• Sydney Braaten
• Hannah Erickson
• Isabella Haataja
• Daria Heinonen
• Alyssa Ross
We honestly cannot say enough great things about the class of 2020. They were leaders on and off the ice, pushing themselves and their teammates to be better versions of themselves. They helped bring our program to places we have never been, and will ultimately leave behind a legacy of making it an expectation to win and be successful in each and every game we played in.
All of these young ladies are going to do great things in the future wherever their paths in life take them.
Highlights this season:
• First winning season for the program in the last 10 years
• Overtime victories against New Ulm and Luverne (who was the Class A State Participant from Section 3A.)
• First win against River Lakes in our knowledge in the program’s history.
• First win in program history in our knowledge against the AA Program New Prague.
• Sophia Hillmann, SR
• Alyssa Olson, SR
• Sydney Braaten, SR
• Grace Walsh, SR
• Hannah Erickson, SR
• Isabella Haataja, SR
• Daria Heinonen, SR
• Avery Stilwell, JR
• Emma DeWolf, JR
• Lauren Block, JR
• Kourtney Mielke, JR
• Kristin Foley, JR
• Ella Hansen, JR
• Cassy Justison, JR
• Lydia Niemela, JR
• Emily Johnson, SO
• Emmy Haataja, SO
• Adriana Iverson, SO
• Grace Braaten, FR
• Sophie Stilwell, FR
• Section 2A Academic Champions.
• WCC All-Conference: Avery Stilwell, G.
• WCC All-Conference Honorable Mention: Sophia Hillmann, Alyssa Olson, Sydney Braaten, Lydia Niemela, Kristin Foley
• Team Offensive Player of the Year: Sophia Hillmann
• Team Plus/Minus Rating Award: Sydney Braaten, Lydia Niemela
• Team Most Improved: Grace Braaten
• Hobey Baker Award: Alyssa Olson.
• Avery Stilwell, JR goalie, had 13 wins (21st in state) and a .939 save pct (4th in state)
• Sophia Hillmann (8-18-26)
• Alyssa Olson (13-7-20)
• Lydia Niemela (11-7-18)
• Kourtney Mielke (11-3-14)
• Emily Johnson (4-6-10)
Looking ahead, what will next season have in store?
As a staff we are very much looking forward to next season.
We will have a great group of returners, with a solid group of juniors (soon-to-be-seniors) leading the way. We will have some new faces that will have to step up and fill roles left behind by our outgoing seniors.
We also have a talented group of young skaters moving up from our Junior Varsity and 12U programs. These fresh faces will bring some new energy, passion, and hunger to our program.
We will have to continue to work hard in the offseason as a team to get stronger, faster, and better with our sticks. As a team we need to find a way to continue to improve on our offensive production that we built on this season. We have a strong goaltender behind us, who can give us the opportunity to win on a nightly basis if we can put pucks in the net for her.
We also have to improve upon our defensive play and make it a nightly goal to give up less shots on net than we did this season.
Overall, we are very pleased as a staff on the growth and successes we had as a team this season. There were many great moments and achievements that will not soon be forgotten.
Our senior class will be missed, but they leave behind a legacy of wanting to be not just good but great, that we feel will continue to help our program reach new heights.
We hope to continue to improve upon our conference and sectional record, as our ultimate goal is to give our team a chance to play at Gustavus Adolphus College in February again for a Section 2A Championship.