HASTINGS — It was an inauspicious start to the season for the Stillwater girls’ hockey team and its first-year head coach, but the Ponies bounced back to secure a 2-1 nonconference victory over Hastings on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
The Raiders scored just 17 seconds into the game, which is not what coach Lee Gillespie had in mind, but the Ponies (1-0) didn’t panic while shutting down Hastings the rest of the way.
“Our players, we just told them to shake it off and play like we know you can,” Gillespie said. “I thought we had the better play that period, but it was not a great way to start.”
Stillwater outshot the Raiders 10-4 in the period and evened the score when Gina Jablonski scored an unassisted goal at 12:45.
“She made a nice play and shorthanded goal,” Gillespie said, “She beat their defenseman to the puck and cut to the net and beat the goalie on the short side. She’s got some good speed and it was a lot of effort and a nice goal.”
The teams remained deadlocked well into the third period until Kate Bartelings shoved home a rebounded shot by Abbi Paduano that clanged off the post.
“It kicked right out to her and she was there on the post,” Gillespie said. “It was a nice play. We had other chances, but could not put one in.
“It wasn’t very pretty, but the girls found a way to win. Going into the third period, we told them to find a way and they did.”
Gillespie is no stranger to the program after previously serving as an assistant for 13 seasons, but the Ponies graduated 12 seniors from last year’s squad.
“It’s a learning curve,” Gillespie said. “We have so much inexperience and we had nobody on D who has played regularly. (Goaltender Olivia) Knox played really well in the net. She looked really solid. She was confident and made some really strong saves when we needed them.”
The shots were even over the last two periods, but the Ponies held a 23-16 advantage in the game.
Stillwater hosts Dodge County in its home opener at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center and Gillespie said he expects to see improvement each time out.
“It’s nice to get that first game,” Gillespie said. “We had a lot of kids getting their first varsity experience. It showed on some of them, but as the game went on we started to play a lot better and smarter. It’s nice to get out of the way.
“Our penalty kill looked good, but the power play was not up to par. We kind of went power play by committee because there’s so many things that are question marks on our team and we’re trying to sort it out. We’re going to build from here. This is the bottom and we’re going to try and get better every week.”
Stillwater 1 0 1 — 2
Hastings 1 0 0 — 1
First period — 1. Has, Erika McDonald (Layna Connell) :17; 1. St, Gina Jablonski (unassisted) sh, 12:45.
Second period — No scoring.
Third period — 2. St, Kate Bartelings (Abbi Paduano, Lauren Einan) 13:58.
Penalties — St, 5-10:00; Has, 5-13:00.
Saves — St (Olivia Knox) 3-7-5—15; Has (Alayna Kunshier) 9-9-3—21.