Finding pace in 2018: Packers win home opener against Mankato East, 4-2

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Austin girls hockey team opened its home schedule with a burst and it was able to find just enough energy down the stretch to close out a win over Mankato East, 4-2 in Riverside Arena Tuesday.

The Packers (1-1 overall, 1-1 Big Nine) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period after Erin Bickler, Lily Holtz and Jaiden Schuster all scored within the first 10 minutes of the contest, but East (3-1 overall, 2-1 Big Nine) was able to pull within 3-2 when Sydney Kanstrup scored with 3:28 left in the game.

Austin’s Lily Holtz skates the puck ahead of Mankato East players in the first period Tuesday night at Riverside Arena. Eric Johnson/

“It was scary,” Schuster said of Kanstrup’s goal. “It was kind of like an eye opener and it made us work harder. We strived to win and we skated harder.”

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Austin was able to hold off the Cougar push and Hannah McMasters sealed the win when she connected on a long empty netter with 17 seconds left in the game.

While it was just the second game of the season for the Packers, Bickler said the team felt ready to go from the start.

“We were all excited for this game,” Bickler said. “We knew it would be close and we knew we had to come out with fire.”

Shelby Davidson-Newkirk had 28 saves for Austin and the Packers had 29 shots on goal of their own. Austin head coach Carley Grunewald was pleased with how her team came out just a few days after they had lost to Rochester John Marshall 6-2.

Austin’s Sarah Wangen leans into a shot against Mankato East Tuesday night in Riverside Arena. Eric Johnson/

“We’re just trying to get used to that pace and we’re trying to find confidence in ourselves,” Grunewald said. “We want to play like we did in the first period throughout the whole game. Our third period against JM was awesome and they translated that into the third period today.”

Holtz said the Packers found a lot of rhythm in the first period and she’s hoping that trend continues throughout the season.

“I think we would’ve been more tired if we hadn’t had that energy to win it,” Holtz said. “Having them come back, we needed to step up. We definitely played more fluidity then when we played JM. In our first game we didn’t move as a team, but tonight we started to communicate and talk on our passes. It’s looking good.”

Austin’s Kylee Hanlon puts a shot on net in the first period against Mankato East. Eric Johnson/


East 0 1  1    2

Austin 3 0  1    4

First period

(A) Erin Bickler (power play) (Hannah McMasters) 4:43

(A) Lily Holtz (Kylee Hanlon) 6:59

(A) Jaiden Schuster 9:48

Second period

(ME) Kaylee Eykyn (Sydney Kanstrup) 9:51

Third period

(M) Kanstrup (Bri Adams) 13:32

(A) McMasters (Holtz) (empty netter) 16:43

Shots: Austin — 29; East — 30

Power plays: Austin — 1-for-3; East — 0-for-3