Winner to be named Feb. 25 at annual Ms. Hockey Banquet

Let’s Play Hockey announced the 10 semifinalists for the Jori Jones Award, given to the state’s most outstanding senior goaltender.  The award was recently named in honor of Jones, a 2022 semifinalist for the Senior Goalie of the Year Award who died last summer from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

This year’s semifinalists have played in more than 11,549 minutes. Collectively they have won 144 games and faced 6,207 shots and made 5,802 saves for a save percentage of .935. They have also combined for 60 shutouts. Seven of the 10 goalies are committed to play college hockey.

“This is one of the deepest goalie classes we have seen in some time,” said Let’s Play Hockey Publisher Bryan Zollman. “Whoever wins the Jori Jones Award is very deserving as all 10 of these goalies have not just had outstanding years, but great careers.”

The Jori Jones Award is based on nominations from high school coaches and is selected based on votes from a panel of high school coaches and  college coaches.  The award is based on the following criteria: academics, community/extracurricular activities, citizenship, coachability and, of course, on-ice performance.

This year’s semifinalists include Claire Bronson (Lakeville South), Kaitlin Groess (Centennial/Spring Lake Park), Olivia Hansen (Prior Lake), Ana Jyrkas (Fergus Falls), Gretchen Paaverud (Anoka), Kayla Simonson (Delano/Rockford), Dani Strom (Maple Grove), Tegan Swanson (Eden Prairie), Lily Timmons (Stillwater), and Grace Zahn (Hill-Murray).

The 10 semifinalists will be narrowed down to five finalists with the winner being announced at the Ms. Hockey Banquet Feb. 25 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. The award is sponsored by Let’s Play Hockey, the Minnesota Wild, Tradition Companies, and the Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches Association. Banquet tickets can be ordered here.

Last year’s winner was Uma Corniea of Edina.  Previous winners include: Maggie Malecha of Northfield (2022), Brynne DuLac of Minnetonka (2021), Anna LaRose of North Wright County (2020), Calla Frank of White Bear Lake (2019), Alexa Dobchuk of Eden Prairie (2018), Breanna Blesi of Maple Grove (2017), Jenna Brenneman of Breck (2016), Frances Marshall of Thief River Falls (2015), Erin O’Neil of Hopkins (2014), Sydney Rossman of Minnetonka (2013), Erika Allen of Roseville (2012), Julie Friend of Minnetonka (2011), Kallie Billadeau of Hopkins (2010), Laura Bellamy of Duluth (2009), Alyssa Grogan of Eagan (2008), Ashley Nixon of Blaine (2007), Alannah McCready of Centennial (2006), Johanna Ellison of Cloquet/Esko/Carlton (2005), Emily Brookshaw of Hill-Murray (2004), Robin Doepke of Chaska (2003), Amber Hasbargen of Warroad (2002), Jody Horak of Blaine (2001), Shari Vogt of River Lakes (2000) and Katie Beauduy of Blaine (1999).

Here is a closer look at this year’s 10 semifinalists for the Jori Jones Award:

PlayerTeamGamesMinutesW-L-TGAASOGSavesSV %SHOCollege
Claire BronsonLakeville South261371:18:0020-3-30.936316060.96012Undecided
Kaitlin GroessCentennial/SLP241219:31:0021-1-21.006346100.9627Bemidji State
Olivia HansenPrior Lake261333:18:0013-12-12.687186480.9034Wisconsin-River Falls
Ana JyrkasFergus Falls251296:03:0013-11-11.695174740.9178North Dakota/Golf
Gretchen PaaverudAnoka18898:51:008-9-12.386355930.9341Concordia University
Kayla SimonsonDelano/Rockford211088:10:0012-9-02.207967490.9413Augsburg
Dani StromMaple Grove231119:18:0016-7-01.325355060.9468St. Thomas
Tegan SwansonEden Prairie201049:32:009-10-12.436706200.9254Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Lily TimmonsStillwater211090:32:0013-8-02.155274810.9138Undecided
Grace ZhanHill-Murray231082:53:0019-3-11.375445150.9475Dartmouth

Claire Bronson – Lakeville South

Claire Bronson  Lakeville South

GP: 26

Minutes: 1371:18

W-L-T: 20-3-3

SOG: 631

Saves: 606

GAA: 0.93

SV %: .960

SHO: 12

Bronson is a big reason why the Cougars are a top 10 team in the Let’s Play Hockey Class AA rankings. The senior surpassed 1,000 career saves earlier this season and is the school’s all-time leader in shutouts with 22, including 12 this season.

Her .960 save percentage ranks second in the state and she has faced 631 shots, an average of 24 per game.

“Claire has been the starting goalie at Lakeville South high school for the past two seasons. She has played every minute this year for our team. She is a calming influence for her teammates both on the ice and in the locker room. She has the ability to shake off a goal against her. She is able to keep focused in pressure situations. We are looking to Claire to carry us deep into the section playoffs this year.” – Head Coach Tim Morris

 

Kaitlin Groess – Centennial/Spring Lake Park

Andover, Minnesota – December 5, 2023: Centennial vs Andover Varsity Hockey.
Photo by: Jon Namyst / Namyst Photography, LLC
Kaitlin Groess  Centennial/Spring Lake Park

GP: 24

Minutes: 1219:31

W-L-T: 21-1-2

SOG: 634

Saves: 610

GAA: 1.00

SV %: .962

SHO: 7

Groess leads the state in save percentage with an astonishing .962 save rate. She has played in every game for the Cougars and has a record of 21-1-2. She has been named all-conference for three years and has also served as captain for three seasons. She has faced more than 25 shots per game on average has a goals against average of 1.00, a big reason why the Cougars have lost only once all season long. The lone loss was 1-0 to Maple Grove where she made 35 saves.

“Kaitlin has been our rock on the back-end during her 4 seasons as our starting goalie. She is extremely athletic, and is a fierce competitor. She is at her best against top competition. She is instrumental in our team culture as a highly positive leader that all of our girls respect, and look up to. She is having her best season this year as a senior, and has been instrumental to our teams very strong start to the season. Kaitlin is a highly talented goalie, and great person, and deserves all of the accolades she receives.” – Head Coach Sean Molin

Olivia Hansen – Prior Lake

Olivia Hansen Prior Lake

GP: 25

Minutes: 1282:18

W-L-T: 12-12-1

SOG: 697

Saves: 630

GAA: 2.66

SV %: .904

SHO: 4

Hansen has been starting on varsity for the past five seasons, getting more regular time during the 2021-22 season. She surpassed 2,300 saves this year after stopping 697 shots in her senior season. Hansen was awarded All-Conference in both 2022 and 2023 and was the Captain of this year’s team. Hansen is planning on continuing her education and hockey career at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

“Olivia’s stats don’t do her justice. She is the glue that keeps our team competing day in and day out. She has gone through some years on this team where she was seeing over 30 shots a game. She has been our number one goaltender for the last 3 seasons. She is a huge reason for the success our program had last season and the reason we can compete with such a young roster this season. She is competitive, moves well, and has a drive to get better day in and day out.”  – Head Coach Kiersten Nelson

Ana Jyrkas – Fergus Falls

Ana Jyrkas Fergus Falls

GP: 25

Minutes: 1296:03

W-L-T: 13-11-1

SOG: 517

Saves: 474

GAA: 1.69

SV %: .917

SHO: 8

Ana Jyrkas has been a co-starter on Fergus Falls’ team since her eighth grade season. This year she has played every minute of every game. She has eight shutouts, including two against River Lakes where she stopped 32 and 24 shots. She has faced an average of 20 shots per game.

“She is a very unselfish, motivating teammate. I am very proud of the person she has become.” – Head Coach Tim Lill

Gretchen Paaverud – Anoka

Gretchen Paaverud  Anoka

GP: 18

Minutes: 898:51

W-L-T: 8-9-1

SOG: 635

Saves: 593

GAA: 2.38

SV%: .934

SHO: 1

Paaverud is the all-time record holder for saves in a game when she stopped an incredible 89 shots in a six-overtime game against Blaine last February. This season she has carried over her solid play between the pipes with an impressive .934 goals against average.

She is a two-year captains and all-conference recipient as a junior and likely as a senior. She will also likely eclipse 2,000 saves for her career. This season she has faced more than 40 shots in a game seven times and has had a 54-save game against Andover and a 64-game save against Maple Grove. She also had a 49-save 1-0 shutout against Elk River.

“Gretchen has been a phenomenal goalie for us in her career. She has great stats despite a not-so-great win-loss record. That is not something that should be negative towards Gretchen as she has made a big difference in keeping us in games. She has had some unbelievable games against some of the top teams in the state.” – Head Coach Logan Syvock

Kayla Simonson – Delano/Rockford

Kayla Simonson Delano/Rockford

GP: 21

Minutes: 1088:47

W-L-T: 12-9-0

SOG: 796

Saves: 749

GAA: 2.20

SV %: .941

SHO: 3

Simonson has seen a lot of shots come her way and leads this list of top goalies with 770 shots on goal. She has turned away 796 of them for an impressive .941 save percentage. She has faced 40 more more shots in 10 games, 50 or more shots in three and 60-plus shots in two. She stopped 67 of 69 shots in a 2-1 loss to Holy Family and 63 of 65 shots in a 2-1 loss to Proctor/Hermantown.

“Kayla is a tremendous goaltender who competes every day. She protects the net with desperation and hates letting it get by her. She plays with fierce intensity and has led us through the toughest schedule in program history. When she is in the net everyone plays with so much more confidence knowing she’s going to pick us up and come through for us every time we need her. Goals are so hard to come by in practice which has allowed us to develop more consistent goal scoring against other goalies because if a shot gets by her, it will get by everyone else too. That has been our mindset as shooters and that is a direct result of the way she practices, and the way she pushes her teammates forward. We have taken significant steps forward this year, and one of, if not the biggest reason for that, is Kayla Simonson.” – Head Coach Lance Reynolds

Dani Strom – Maple Grove

Dani Strom Maple Grove

GP: 23

Minutes: 1119:18

W-L-T: 16-7-0

SOG: 535

Saves: 506

GAA: 1.32

SV %: .946

SHO: 8

Strom is coming off an all-state season as a junior and has been outstanding in goal for the Crimson. She was a member of Team USA’s U18 team where they took home the bronze medal. She is a two-time state tournament participant, two-time all-conference player and serves as one of the team’s captains. She has 51 career wins and is committed to continue her hockey career at the University of St. Thomas.

“Dani is the best goalie I have ever seen play the position. She is so square to the puck and is an unreal competitor every day. Our schedule is a top five SOS every year everything she gets she earns. Dani gives us an opportunity to win every night she is in goal, the kids have so much confidence in her and what I am really proud of what a mentor she has become to our younger goalies. They tell me it is like having a goalie coach there everyday.” – Head Coach Jim Koltes

Tegan Swanson – Eden Prairie

Tegan Swanson Eden Prairie

GP: 20

Minutes: 1049:32

W-L-T: 9-10-1

SOG: 670

Saves: 620

GAA: 2.45

SV %: .925

SHO: 4

Swanson has a very decorated High School hockey career with an All-Conference last season and her being named the team MVP in 2023. Swanson was also selected to participate in the premier Prep Nationals Tournament in March of 2024. She is also on her way to potentially another MVP and All-conference this year with her great stats. Swanson is continuing her education and hockey career with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“During practices, Tegan’s effort is outstanding. Her commitment, work ethic and competitive nature inspire all her teammates to give their best. In addition to our daily afternoon team practices, Tegan also dedicates one day a week with additional goaltender instruction before school. Tegan is constantly trying to improve, learn advanced technical skills and become a better player. During games, Tegan demonstrates a remarkable level of intensity and focus. As a captain and fierce competitor, she holds herself and her teammates accountable to give 100% mentally and physically all game long.” – Head Coach Steve Persian

Lily Timmons – Stillwater

Lily Timmons Stillwater

GP: 21

Minutes: 1090:32

W-L-T: 13-8-0

SOG: 527

Saves: 481

GAA: 2.15

SV %: .913

SHO: 8

Timmons has helped lead the Ponies to a top-15 ranking for most of the season. She is a two-time all-conference goalie and was a participant in the 2022 USA National Development Camp. She has posted eight shutouts, including shutouts where she stopped 26, 31 and 33 shots. She will graduate with more than 50 wins in net and a career save percentage above .900.

“Lily is a great leader and a wonderful hockey player. She is one of the most loyal players I have ever coached. She works extremely hard and is very competitive. She has won every conference game she has started over the past two years – 28 games and counting. I have really enjoyed coaching Lily; she is a great asset to our team. I haven’t ever had a goalie who is as good of a student of the game as she is. She has really impressed me with how much she understands and helps her teammates learn the game from a goalie perspective. This year she also worked really hard in mentoring her heir apparents.” – Head Coach Annie Cashman

Grace Zhan – Hill-Murray

Grace Zhan Hill-Murray

GP: 23

Minutes: 1082:53

W-L-T: 19-3-1

SOG: 544

Saves: 515

GAA: 1.37

SV %: .947

SHO: 5

Zhan has put together an impressive career while leading Hill-Murray to a top-5 ranking this season. In her fourth year as a starter, Zhan has 21 shutouts in her career, has finished with a save percentage of .940 or better in three of her four seasons, and has earned all-state twice. This season she has posted an impressive 1.37 goals against average and .947 save percentage.

“Grace is an amazing teammate and a terrific goalie. Her individual stats could be even gaudier this year if she stayed in games that have been decided. Almost 25% of the games she starts she doesn’t finish. When she is pulled from a game she leaves the ice with a smile and cheers her teammates on from the bench. She is a great teammate.” – Head Coach Krissy Pohl.