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Hockey: Winter season opens with hockey

When Rosemount girls hockey coach Tracy Cassona would see her players in school recently, the excitement for the approaching season was readily apparent.

Many of the girls were counting down the days and weeks until practice.

"We've been looking forward to it," Cassano said. "They would say, 'Three more weeks, two more weeks.' So, they had kind of a countdown going because I think everybody is kind of excited about the season. They are ready to go, ready to play. It should be fun.

There's a reason for the excitement. The Irish feel they have the ability to be a pretty good team this season.

Most of the team returns after graduating just two seniors from last year's squad.

"I think the days of calling us a young team are over," Cassano said.

With the experience and talent, Rosemount is expecting to improve tremendously from last year's 12-14-1 season in which it made it to the section semifinals.

The biggest factor might be the experience.

"Some of our 10th-graders have already played two years," Cassano said. "We have a couple of ninth-graders that played last year. So, I think with the experience we can kind of move expectations up a little bit and challenge them more with some intricate details of the game, versus some of the basic skills and basic concepts that the past couple of years we've had to focus more on."

Cassano believes her team has the potential to be strong on both the offensive and defensive sides.

Senior forward Kayla Goehring, senior defender Rachel Vath, and junior forward Allison Micheletti are the captains.

Vath is joined by Jenna Bangerter, Sadie Bigelbach, Hannah Esselman, Kendra Goodrich, and Sarah Tollefson on defense.

"I would put our defensive corps up against any defense in the Lake Conference," Cassano said.

Goehring and Micheletti are part of a talented forward group that includes last year's leading scorer Rachael Kelly. Alison Warweg and Taylor Sampson will also likely figure into one of the top lines.

The two departures came in goal, but the Irish believe they might have an answer there as well.

Caitlin Dantzscher is a transfer from Lakeville South and will open the season as the No. 1 netminder.

"She is very talented and she is just a sophomore, so she will continue to work and improve," Cassano said. "It's just another plus for our team this year and that adds to the excitement."