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Girls hockey: New coach looking to meet high expectations

First-year Rosemount head coach Josh Hoekstra looks on during practice last Monday in Rosemount.

The Rosemount girls hockey team accomplished a lot last season.

It earned the best record in program history at 22-7-1, finished second in the South Suburban Conference, reached the No. 9 spot in the Class 2A rankings and qualified for the Class 2A State tournament for the first time ever.

This year's Irish face the difficult task of building on that success while replacing five key seniors and playing under a new head coach - Josh Hoekstra.

"I am excited to be taking over a program that has experienced so much recent success. The expectations are now so much higher after the success the girls experienced last year," said Hoekstra, who coached the Irish boys team from 1999 to 2002. "This is what is great about high school sports. The girls this year will have to forge their own identity and decide what kind of team they want to be."

Hoekstra spent his high school days as a three-year starter at Edina. He played collegiately at Colorado College in 1992 and '93, then returned to the ice for the first of two stints at Burnsville in 1998. Through just over a week of practice, he likes what he is seeing from his new team.

"After watching the girls practice and scrimmage this last week, I am confident that they understand that hard work and doing the little things the right way are going to determine what kind of season they will have," he said.

Hoekstra expects defense could be a strength of this year's team as the Irish return three defensive players who earned all-conference honors last year - Kendra Goodrich, Lauren Riley and goaltender Caitlin Dantzscher. Goodrich won first-team honors and was named the team's Defensive Player of the Year, and also chipped in on the offensive end with 12 goals and eight assists, while Riley anchored a defense that allowed 2.2 goals per game, third best in the SSC. Dantzscher had a 90.5 save percentage and helped the Irish to seven shutout victories.

"Defensively I think we are as talented as anyone around ...but I also look for this group to provide offense as well," Hoekstra said. "I am very excited to have Caitlyn back as she is our anchor back there. It is a nice feeling having her back."

Other defensive players include Hannah Esselman, the team's Hustle Award winner last season, and Andrea Hughes.

Up front, the Irish are counting on some offense from senior Taylor Sampson. Last season, Sampson provided 16 goals and 25 assists and was named Co-Forward of the Year while earning all-conference honors.

She will be joined at the forward spots by Kristen Reuter and Shania Anderson. Hoeckstra is also expecting contributions from Abby Knoop, Amanda Comstock, Marie Griffith, Alex Malecha, Bailey Vitek, Monique Rothlisberger and Sydney Lubeley.

The Irish open the season Tuesday, Nov. 15 at home against Shakopee at the Rosemount Community Center.