COTTAGE GROVE — Bouncing back nicely after a loss to Suburban East Conference leader Mounds View last week, the Stillwater girls’ hockey team jumped on Park for four goals in the opening period en route to an 8-2 victory on Saturday at Cottage Grove Ice Arena.
The Ponies (4-2-0 SEC, 5-4-1) outshot Park 41-20 — including 20-7 in the second period alone — to bounce back with a strong performance while trying to keep pace in the rugged SEC, which features five teams ranked in the top 20 by Let’s Play Hockey.
Ali Biagini scored two goals to lead a balanced attack that featured nine different Ponies who collected at least one point.
“I thought we played really well as a team,” Stillwater coach Tony Scheid said. “To come and score four first-period goals and have a lot of girls punching it in, that kind of a team effort is pretty exciting. Going on the road, this was a must-win in the conference because we can’t afford to drop too many more in the conference and have a shot. It was a good night.”
Hannah Heacox, Hannah Okerstrom, Taylor Naugle and Biagini each scored during a seven-minute stretch of the first period to give Stillwater a 4-0 lead. Sierra Smith helped set up Naugle’s tally with a nice play carrying the puck in on the left wing and sliding a pass across the ice for Naugle’s one-timer.
“It was really nice to be on the road and come out with that kind of effort in the first period,” Scheid said. “A lot of players played well and our defensemen got pucks to the net and were getting pucks out of the zone. There were a lot of good passes out of our zone and good transition and we were able to attack with a lot of speed.”
The Wolfpack (0-5-1, 2-7-1) answered in the second period with goals by Monica Martineau and Maddy Jeske to pull within 4-2, but Stillwater stormed back with goals by Carlie Hart and Sara Bustad less than a minute apart late in the period to regain a four-goal cushion. Hart’s tally was one of two on the power play for the Ponies.
Biagini notched her second goal on the power play midway through the third period after taking a pass on a line change with a head of steam and going 2-on-1 to beat goaltender Caitlin Tate after a pair of nifty moves for a 7-2 lead.
“She made two really nice moves and that was a highlight goal,” Scheid said. “She had a very nice game.”
Dana Almquist assisted on Biagini’s second goal and then scored one herself with about three minutes remaining in the third for an 8-2 lead.
“Almquist, our defensemen, scored her second wrap-around goal of the season and I can’t remember the last time we had a defenseman score a wrap-around — and she has two,” Scheid said. “She leads our team in blocked shots and she does all the little things you need to do defensively, but she also has a lot of game offensively and she gives our team a lot of punch when she does things like that — and does so much defensively, too.”
Okerstrom finished with three points after assisting on the goals by Hart and Bustad to go along with her first-period tally.
“She’s really playing consistently at a high level and is a big key to our team’s success through the first third of the season,” Scheid said. “I can’t say enough about her play and her effort. She has really raised her game to the next level and it’s great to see when a senior jumps out like that. It’s fun to watch.”
Allison Pasiuk finished with 18 saves in goal for the Ponies.
n Also on Saturday, the Stillwater JV team improved to 9-0 this season with a 2-0 victory over the Wolfpack.
n The Stillwater varsity rallied for a 3-2 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall on Tuesday. See Thursday’s Gazette for story.
n The Ponies will host an Alumni vs. Alumni game on Friday from 4:30-5:30 p.m., on the Blizzard Rink at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center.
Stillwater 4 2 2 — 8
Park 0 2 0 — 2
First period — 1. St, Hannah Heacox (unassisted) 8:03; 2. St, Hannah Okerstrom (unassisted) 8:19; 3. St, Taylor Naugle (Sierra Smith) 10:21; 4. St, Ali Biagini (unassisted) 14:24.
Second period — 1. Par, Monica Martineau (Mary Turitto, Anna Keys) 3:10; 2. Par, Maddy Jeske (Dani Perry) 6:58; 5. St, Carlie Hart (Okerstrom, Sara Bustad) pp, 13:58; 6. St, Bustad (Okerstrom, Jane Vezina) 14:54.
Third period — 7. St, Biagini (Dana Almquist) pp, 9:27; 8. St, Almquist (unassisted) 13:45.
Penalties — St, 2-4:00; Par, 5-18:00.
Saves — St (Allison Pasiuk) 6-5-7—18; Par (Caitlin Tate) 8-18-7—33.