Nov. 9—ROCHESTER — Three girls hockey players in Rochester hit double figures in goals scored last season.
One graduated last spring.
The remaining two? They're the offensive anchors for a Century/John Marshall team that has experience, but only four seniors.
Daelyn Williams and Megan Gamble have six seasons of varsity hockey and 48 goals between them. And though they're not linemates as their junior season is about to begin, the long-time friends and teammates have a world of respect for one another.
"She's a super dependable teammate, one of the fastest and strongest skaters on the team," Gamble said of Williams. "She has an amazing shot and her passes are always tape-to-tape. Even though we're not linemates, she's super fun to play with."
Likewise, Williams has seen Gamble's game for long enough that she can offer a through scouting report of her teammate.
"Megan is a really good stick handler and she has really good speed, so if it's a one-on-one, you know she's going to come out with the puck," Williams said. "She can pass, too. She's really good at finding open teammates."
Williams led the Panthers in goals scored a year ago (13), while Gamble was third on the team in goals (10) and second in points (18). Century/JM's leading scorer, Kailey Birkestrand, graduated after an 11-goal, 20-point senior season, but first-year Panthers head coach John Gamble likes what he's seen so far from his top two returning scorers, and all of the team's veterans.
Century/JM also welcomes back seniors Fiona Barry (6-5 — 11) and Annika Torbenson (3-9 — 12), and junior Paige Groslie (5-7 — 12), all of whom hit double figures in points last season.
"I'd say with all of our kids, we start at the defensive end first," said John Gamble, father to Megan and Panthers freshman Emilia Gamble. "If you score three a game, it doesn't help if the other team scores four against you. We expect all of our players to be strong in the defensive end first, before anything else."
Williams played on a line with Barry and Torbenson a year ago. That trio combined for 39 points, as Century/JM got off to a 5-5-0 start before finishing 7-17-1 overall.
More so than goals and points, Williams and Megan Gamble say they'd like to improve that record, but the biggest goal is to see little improvements each day at practice and carry those into games.
"We just have to remember that every practice and every game is a chance to improve," Williams said, "especially when we're playing against some of the better teams. ... That will make us a better team. We want to keep things positive. We want all the girls to keep coming back and we want to build our program up."
"As long as you're giving it your best and you're trying to make good plays out there and get better as a team, that's all you can ask," Megan Gamble said. "We will play better teams than us, and we for sure want to build our record up, but we just want to give our best and get better."
John Gamble describes Williams and Megan Gamble as different types of players. They both bring something unique to the Panthers' lineup.
"Daelyn's game is built on her athleticism, speed and power," John Gamble said, "and she flies up and down the ice. She's very competitive and has a lot of passion for the game.
"Megan is a different type of player. She plays more of a lateral game, reads the ice and opponents really well. She's a good playmaker and can put the puck in the net."
Coach Gamble is back in a varsity head coaching role for the first time in more than a decade. He guided Mayo to three state tournaments in the mid-2000s, then after a break from the high school game he became an assistant for Century/JM last season.
"I think we've established pretty clearly where we want to be and what our vision is," he said. "Whether we accomplish that now or two or three years down the road, it starts with developing good habits on a daily basis. We want to raise the competition level against one another, in practices. That will be helpful in games."
Century plays its first home game of the season on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. against Apple Valley, at the Rochester Recreation Center.