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Girls hockey: Irish earn first state trip

Girls hockey players celebrate after Wednesday's win.1 / 2
The girls hockey team poses with the section title trophy.2 / 2

Rosemount senior Amanda Wilson was approached before the Irish girls hockey team was set to play rival Eastview last week in the section finals.

Throughout the week leading up to the game, Wilson and her Rosemount teammates were often asked if they were going to win.

Wilson and the Irish felt strongly they would beat the Lightning and earn a trip to this week's state tournament. Some wondered if the Irish were too sure of themselves.

"People would come up asking us if we were going to win and how we thought it was going to go," Wilson said this week. "We were confident. It was almost automatic. We knew it was our game, our tournament to win.

"People said, 'Don't get too cocky.' I told them, 'This isn't cockiness. It's confidence.'"

Wilson and her teammates shared those same views with Rosemount coach Tracy Cassano.

Her simple message? Prove it.

"They told me in school, 'Coach, it's not even going to be close,'" Cassano said of her players. "I said, 'OK, you have to back it up with action.' They definitely did."

The Irish won the Class 2A, Section 3 title 6-2 against Eastview last week. Rosemount jumped to a 5-0 lead on the strength of four second-period goals and cruised to its first state tournament appearance.

After losing to Burnsville in the finals last season, the Irish experience played a big part in finishing out the championship this year.

"They were definitely ready to go," Cassano said. "It was definitely a different type of feeling than last year. Because of the fact they were there last year, this year our experience played a factor into it. They were really confident."

Rachael Kelly opened the scoring in the first with a assist from Taylor Sampson.

Kendra Goodrich scored a power-play goal from Kelly and Alison Warweg to start the flurry in the second. Allison Micheletti and Kelly each scored unassisted and Sarah Tollefson added another goal with assists to Kelly and Sampson.

After two Eastview goals, Sampson scored the final goal with an assist from Micheletti.

Irish goaltender Caitlin Dantzscher made 17 saves as Rosemount outshot the Lightning 36-19.

"This is what we have worked for all season," Kelly said. "It wasn't an easy game. It was really tough, but we knew what we had to do to win. We were all really excited and ready to go out there. And it couldn't have been a better game to play. To play Eastview and win, nothing is better than that. To beat your biggest rival and win by that much was amazing. It was probably one of the games where we worked the hardest all three periods."

The Irish felt it was their turn for a big win against the Lightning. The two teams had met three times earlier this season.

Eastview won an overtime game in December and followed with a 6-3 win in January. In the regular-season finale, Rosemount had its own close win, taking an overtime game.

The Irish wanted their big win.

"The girls were saying it's our turn to kind of take it to them this time," Cassano said. "They were so excited in school. They were literally counting down the hours until the drop of the puck. They carried that confidence into the game. From the drop of the puck we really controlled the game and steamrolled."

Rosemount opens the Class 2A state tournament today against No. 2 seed Edina at 11 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Rosemount is ranked No. 9 with a 22-5-1 record. Edina, ranked No. 2, is 24-3-1 heading into the tournament.

"We're pumped and ready to play," Kelly said. "We're ready to be the underdogs. I think we kind of got a bad deal in the seeding. We're playing one of the top teams in the tournament. But we're excited to show up and show everyone we're here for a reason.

"As excited as we all are, we're really keeping our excitement contained and we'll leave it all out there on Thursday," Kelly said. "Once we get out there at the 'X' we'll find a whole new energy we didn't know we had."