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Girls hockey: New coach leads young team

With a new head coach and a young roster, there are a lot of unknowns going into the season for the Rosemount girls hockey team.

Last year’s JV assistant coach Tom Conboy is taking over a team that lost several key players after going 8-18-1 against a tough South Suburban Conference schedule a season ago. Of the 31 players who stepped on the ice during last week’s opening practices, 21 were freshmen or younger.

“We’ll have a seventh-grader, several eighth-graders and a couple freshmen that will be with the varsity team this year. We’ll have a better feel for where we stand after we line up for a scrimmage against Simley this week,” said Conboy, a Rosemount graduate. “We’ll find out whether those players are ready to jump in and go or if they’ll need a few games to get their feet wet.”

Heading up a list of nine returning players for the Irish is senior forward Kristen Reuter. Reuter will serve as captain for the second year in a row and has already proven valuable as a team leader, according to Conboy.

“She’s been amazing from a leadership standpoint. She’s held everyone together through the coaching change and has gotten everybody on board for the season,” he said. “Her ability with the puck is unbelievable. She can go down and score and yet come back and play as a defensive-minded forward that can back in the zone and help us out.”

Other returning forwards for the Irish are senior Ashlee Humble, junior Alex Malecha and sophomore Sam Rhody.

Another senior captain, Natalie Deeg, will anchor the Irish defense. Deeg leads a group of returning defensemen that also includes Allison Karrmann, Anndrea Hughes and Hannah Enright.

Senior defenseman Kate Sullivan will also see varsity time after playing JV a season ago.

“Deeg is a solid defenseman. She can go between forward and defense, so she gives us a little bit of versatility,” Conboy said. “She will be solid for us in front of the net.”

Minding the goal will once again be Lauren Topor, who gained valuable experience as the Irish’s full-time goaltender a season ago. Topor will also serve as a captain.

“She’s going to be a huge part of our success this year. With the youth on our team still developing, she’s going to be able to hold us in games,” Conboy said. “Last year she saw 30-40 shots per game. To see that many shots and come away with some victories is amazing. She’s a quiet leader and leads by example.”

The Irish start the regular season Saturday on the road at Burnsville. Conboy hopes his young team’s off-season work and practice habits have prepared it to be competitive against a South Suburban slate he expects to be very challenging.

“We have six teams that had 13 or more wins last year and two of them went to the state tournament, so we definitely have our work cut out for us,” he said. “We’ve been focusing on effort and attitude, showing up to the rink every day and getting ready to work. Even through the summer we’ve been stressing the little things like positioning along with shooting and passing. We’re stressing that everybody is going to have to show leadership and contribute.”