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Girls hockey: Gearing up for Section 3AA

Rosemount players fight for the puck.1 / 3
Rosemount defenseman Hannah Esselman looks to pass the puck to a teammate during a recent home game.2 / 3
Rachael Kelly maneuvers the puck down the ice.3 / 3

Driving home after a loss to Lakeville South last weekend, Rosemount girls hockey coach Tracy Cassano realized her team had been fortunate in recent years when it comes to injuries.

Cassano was left to ponder line combinations after a tough loss that left the team without three players. It hit Cassano that the Irish haven't had to deal with much lineup shuffling due to injuries.

"Honestly, the last five years we've had some things that every team deals with, but we haven't had to deal with any major things happening like it did Saturday," Cassano said. "It was, kind of, boom, we were missing a couple of kids. I really started to think about it on the way home, that we have been pretty lucky up to this point. It's one of those things you don't think about until it happens, and thankfully we haven't had to deal with it."

The 2-1 loss to the Cougars snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Irish, but the realization of losing players might have been the biggest impact. Cassano expects each of the players to return in time for the playoffs, but for the first time this season missing players are leading to lineup questions.

Rosemount entered the week 17-5-1 overall this season and 12-3-1 in the South Suburban Conference and a consistent lineup has led to a comfortable feeling for the team and coaches. Cassano and the coaching staff haven't needed to experiment much with line combinations or defensive pairings.

"We've tweaked and changed a couple of things, but for the most part we've liked what we've seen and haven't had to make changes," Cassano said. "We've tried to see who clicks together and who works well with each other. We've gotten to the point where we can make changes and know the kids will be fine."

Rosemount, ranked No. 11, beat Burnsville 6-3 last week before taking the 2-1 loss at home to No. 6 and conference-leading Lakeville South.

The Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on Saturday.

Taylor Sampson scored for the Irish just 39 seconds into the second, giving the team a boost. But Rosemount couldn't add the equalizer.

Caitlin Dantzscher made 38 saves in goal for the Irish, who were outshot 40-20.

"The first period they really dominated the game, the shots, the physical play, every aspect of play they dominated," Cassano said. "The second period we got a quick goal. Taylor Sampson got a rebound goal and gave everybody some life. We were battling injuries and had a fight in the third period, so we had a short bench. I was proud of the way the kids battled and finished the game.

"It was a disappointing loss. Obviously we're trying to compete for a conference title and that's a disappointing, tough loss. I was proud of the kids the way they performed through adversity they faced throughout the game."

Sampson had two goals and two assists in the win against Burnsville. Kendra Goodrich had two goals, with Alison Warweg and Kristen Reuter each scoring once.

Rachael Kelly had three assists for the Irish. Dantzscher made 20 saves.

Rosemount finishes the regular season Saturday with a home game against Eastview. Section seeding is Sunday and the Irish likely are playing for a top 3 seed in Section 3.