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Girls hockey: Eastview losses have refocused Irish

After losing back-to-back games against rival Eastview, the Rosemount girls hockey team had to reassess its play.

The Irish players and coaches had a talk after the two losses, one in overtime in the Farmington holiday tournament and the next a 6-3 loss on the Lightning's home ice. It was the first time Rosemount had lost back-to-back games. In fact, they were just the third and fourth losses overall for the Irish this season.

Eastview, ranked No. 13, is a conference and section opponent as well as district rival.

So, it was the perfect time for reflection for Rosemount.

"We had a team chat after those two games and just kind of reiterated and tried to refocus what our goals are and what we are trying to accomplish this season," Irish coach Tracy Cassano said. "It's a long season and we didn't get much of a break for Christmas playing in the tournament. I think we needed to refocus the kids and reiterate what we are trying to do here. After that, there was a new energy at practice and I think it has carried over into the games."

Rosemount (13-4-1, 9-2-1 South Suburban) has won three straight games since the meeting. The Irish beat Bloomington Jefferson 6-1 and Prior Lake 6-0. They followed with a 2-0 win on Saturday against Lakeville North.

The three wins might have been just what Rosemount needed.

Cruising to big wins likely helped boost the confidence level. A close win against the Panthers might have prepared them for the tougher games ahead.

"We haven't beat anyone 6-0 or 6-1 in a while, so it was nice to rebound, regather and regroup just to get back on the winning track," Cassano said. "We're looking forward to this week. We finish off with some pretty intense, playoff-type games."

The Irish have six games remaining in the regular season, beginning with tonight's road game at Shakopee. Rosemount hosts Bloomington Kennedy on Saturday. Games with Burnsville, Lakeville South and Eagan remain with a rematch against Eastview set for the regular-season finale.

"Those losses were frustrating for us," Cassano said. "Eastview is a great team. In my opinion they are the best team in the section right now. The fact is, they beat us twice. We get another crack at them at the end of the year. Since those two losses, I think we've responded well. It was important to get back on track and have everyone feeling good about where we're at."

Cassano knows a strong defensive effort, and winning a close game, should benefit the Irish going forward. Rosemount goaltender Caitlin Dantzscher had her second straight shutout, and fourth of the season, in the win against Lakeville North with 21 saves.

"Any team would agree, it's defense down the stretch that helps you win games," Cassano said. "The offense can be hot and cold throughout the season. You have to make sure you are playing sound defense and your goalie is making saves at crucial moments.

"There was one save where they got past our defenseman and got a breakaway. They beat Katie, but she came back with the paddle of her stick and stopped it. Those are the types of saves she made. That was the best game she has played all year. That's a positive thing coming down the stretch."

Kendra Goodrich scored a power-play goal in the third period to break the scoreless tie with an assist to Rachael Kelly. Allison Micheletti later added an empty-net goal.

"It was a nail-biter," Cassano said. "I thought it was a smart game from both teams. Both teams played well defensively."

Micheletti had two goals against Prior Lake, with Kelly and Taylor Sampson each scoring once.