Packers’ bid for state falls one win short

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, February 17, 2022

OWATONNA — Things were looking good for the Packers early in the second period, but a surge by top-seeded Albert Lea put an end to Austin’s state hopes as it lost 7-2 in the Section 1A girls hockey title game in Owatonna’s Four Seasons Centre Thursday.

The Packers seized a 2-1 lead in the first minute of the second period when Megan Schultz pushed a shot through, but the Tigers (14-10-1 overall) responded by scoring four goals in 11 minutes to take control of the game. AL, which out-shot Austin 25-21, went on to dominate the puck in the third period as it slowed things down.

“They just had a little more juice in the tank when we got deeper in the game,” Austin head coach Troy Holtz said. “They converted off of our mistakes. We had a few plays that resulted in breakaways or easy plays for them. Shots-wise we did what we wanted to, we just allowed them too many high quality opportunities. They have too many shooters.”

Kate Holtz trickled a shot through to give No. 2 seeded Austin (15-11 overall) a 1-0 lead early in the game, but AL seventh grader Morgan Goskeson tied things up just five minutes later

AL has just two seniors and no juniors, but it’s younger players were ready to go as the Tigers clinched their first trip to state in program history.

“Because they’re so young, they don’t know anything other than working hard,” Holtz said. “They work hard the whole game and they have three equal lines. We got two goals from our line that we get two goals from every game. We needed more, and that’s where their depth came in.”

Austin finished the season with its best record since 2008, which was the last time the Packers went to state. Austin will graduate seven seniors, including leading scorer Kate Holtz.

The Packers played Thursday’s game without injured sophomore defenseman Payton Squier, which required the team to mix up its lineup.

“Losing Payton Squier can’t be understated,” Troy Holtz said. “She’s a rock solid defenseman and she allows us to move Sarah Wangen over to forward. I’m really proud of our seniors and their effort was incredible. They worked hard.”

Kyia Radford-Garcia had 18 saves for Austin.

SCORING SUMMARY

Austin 1 1 0  —  2

AL 1 4 1  —  7

First period

(A) Kate Holtz 3:02

(AL) Morgan Goskeson (Shelby Evans) 8:32

Second period

(A) Megan Schultz (Izzy Hemann, Holtz) :58

(AL) Mika Cichosz (Keira Erickson) 4:49

(AL) Lucy Stay 5:21

(AL) Esther Yoon (power play) (Elizabeth Willett) 9:42

(AL) Morgan Goskeson (Evans, Cichosz) 11:56

Third period

(AL) Evans (Cichosz) 8:49

(AL) Cichosz (power play) (Evans) 16:27

Shots: Austin — 21; AL — 25

Power plays: Austin — 0-for-2; AL — 3-for-5