Hannah Peterson celebrates after ?? goal to put the Wildcats up 2-1 in Friday’s semifinal win over Orono.

In first state tourney trip, Wildcats defeat Orono 4-2

by Bryan Zollman

If people didn’t know where Dodge County was before, they do now.

The Wildcats defeated metro power Orono 4-2 in the Class A semifinals and will advance to the state championship game Saturday. This is Dodge County’s first trip to the state tournament. They will face the winner of Warroad and Academy of Holy Angels.

“It’s a great win,” said Dodge County Head Coach Jeremy Gunderson. “I’m very proud of these girls.”

Orono’s Maddie Kimbrel opened the scoring for the Spartans, her 27th of the season. Orono led 1-0 after one period.

But the Wildcats took advantage of a power play in the first minute of the second period and Nora Carstensen capitalized by roofing a shot past Orono goaltender Vivienne Anderson. It was Carstensen’s team-leading 34thgoal of the season.

It stayed 1-1 when Kylie Myer scored off a rebound from the left circle for a 2-1 Dodge County lead. Twenty seconds later Maysie Koch found herself all alone on a breakaway where she was able to settle a bouncing puck and lift a shot over Anderson’s shoulder for a 3-1 Wildcat lead.

“I was a little nervous with the puck being a little wobbly,” said Koch, a freshman with 25 goals.  “I just shot to see what happens and got lucky it went in.”

The Wildcats were able to stave off pressure from a talented and potent Orono offense. Dodge County goaltender Ida Huber came up with several key saves on two back-to-back Orono power plays.

“She really saved us,” said Mollie Koch. “She played big and stayed positive in the net and never gave up.”

Dodge County goalie Ida Huber had some big saves to keep Orono’s potent offense at bay.

The two penalty kills were a huge boost for the Wildcats as momentum stayed even, if not in their favor by maintaining the 3-1 lead. Gunderson said the team spent two weeks focusing mainly on defensive zone play.

“We beat each other up pretty good for a couple weeks, but it paid off today,” he said.

Orono’s Macy Rasmussen made it a 3-2 game with her ninth goal of the season. The Spartans continued to apply pressure, outshooting the Wildcats 13-5 in the final frame, but Huber was able to keep the puck out of the net despite losing her glove once and her stick another time.

Gunderson said while watching warm ups he could see how relaxed and poised Huber was.

“I knew she was on,” he said.

Orono Head Coach Paul Antonenko said expectations were high for his Orono team after finishing second at state last year.

“Dodge County played very well,” he said. “They’re well coached and their goaltender played well.”

Antonenko said the team perhaps lacked a little bit of urgency until the the third period when they seemed to turn it up a notch.

“I don’t know if we had the urgency out of the gate,” he said. “Our third period was great, but you have to play 51 minutes.”

An empty netter sealed the win with 22 seconds left, lifting Dodge County into the spotlight of a championship game.

“A lot of people coming into the tourney didn’t know where we were from,” said Mollie Koch. “We were the underdogs for sure.”

The hope is that now people will know where Dodge County is, and how good of a program they have built over the past several years.

“I know the north has a lot of pride,” said Gunderson. “These kids have some southern pride. Our goal now is to bring one (state championship) down south for once.”