Girls hockey: Knowing the stakes
After opening the Class 2A, Section 3 tournament with a pair of one-goal victories, did Rosemount girls hockey coach Tracy Cassano try any special pep talks regarding this week's section final game against Eastview?
"Honestly, I didn't have to say a whole lot," Cassano said.
As it turns out, there wasn't much new information to add to the conversation.
The section finals have been on the minds of the Irish players since they lost to Burnsville in the same spot last year.
"The kids are ready,' Cassano said Tuesday before Wednesday's rematch with Eastview. "They were here last year. It's what we've been working toward the entire season and what they've probably been thinking about all offseason. It's trying to get to state, and last year coming up short, that sticks in your mind all year and it's been the goal. The coaching staff doesn't have to say a lot.
"There is also the excitement of the Rosemount-Eastview rivalry. It will be the fourth game between the teams this year. I think it's going to be an exciting game. If both teams play to their potential and play their 'A' game, the crowd will be in for a great section final game. It's fitting with the one and two seeds playing each other."
The top-seeded Irish reached this week's section finals with two closer-than-expected victories. Rosemount beat No. 8 seed Woodbury 4-3 last week and then outlasted No. 4 seed Hastings 3-2 in an overtime game last weekend.
The Irish and No. 2 seed Eastview were set to play the Class 2A, Section 3 final on Wednesday at the Veteran's Memorial Community Center in Inver Grove Heights. Results were not available at press time. Go to www.rosemounttownpages.com to see who won the section title and the right to play in next week's state tournament.
There was no panic from Cassano after two close wins. It helps that her team responded after trailing in each game.
"It would be nice to play with the lead and keep the lead and not make it so close all the time," Cassano said. "One of the things we've talked about from the beginning, one of our strengths is having a veteran team. They have experience in these scenarios. They've been here before and it has paid off."
Woodbury scored first in the quarterfinals, but Rosemount countered with a four-goal second period.
Kristin Reuter tied the game at one with assists to Taylor Sampson and Rachael Kelly.
Allison Micheletti and Sarah Tollefson then scored goals eight seconds apart to put the Irish in front.
After a Woodbury goal, Tollefson added the eventual game-winner before the period ended.
Sampson finished with three assists. Kelly had two assists and Alison Warweg assisted on Micheletti's goal.
Rosemount goaltender Caitlin Dantzscher finished with 21 saves.
"I would say, against Woodbury we did not play well," Cassano said. "It was one of those games where we didn't have our 'A' game. We were inconsistent and didn't necessarily show up ready to play. We were lucky to get a win. In the playoffs, you lose and you go home."
Hastings also struck first in the semifinals with a first-period goal. Rosemount scored twice before the period ended.
The Irish missed two breakaway scoring chances late in the first.
The Raiders added a tying goal in the third, sending the game into overtime.
Kendra Goodrich scored her second goal of the game at the 2:54 mark of overtime on a deflection to advance Rosemount into the finals.
Sampson had a goal and an assist. Kelly had three assists and Micheletti tallied one assist. Dantzscher made 18 saves.
"The kids stayed composed," Cassano said. "If they were tight or nervous, they didn't play like it or show it. I think we outshot them 4-0 in overtime. We had it in their end the whole time and went on the attack. I told them, 'Overtime goals don't have to be pretty. They're probably not going to be pretty.' We just had to shoot the puck and crash the net."