Girls hockey: A good night and a tough fight for Willmar Cardinals

Jan. 29—WILLMAR — It was "Stick it to Cancer" night in honor of Brooke Larson's fight against Leukemia as the Willmar girls hockey team secured a 5-1 victory over Hutchinson on Monday.

Larson, a freshman goaltender for the Cardinals, was diagnosed with B-All Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in early December 2023. On Jan. 8, her bone marrow was 100% free of Leukemia cells. She will continue to undergo chemotherapy treatments at the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.

"She will do eight months of treatment, whether they see cancer cells or not," said Laura Larson, Brooke's mother. "They're just hitting it hard."

"She inspires me a lot to keep going everyday," said Makenna Larson, Brooke's older sister who is a senior defenseman for the Cardinals. "It really made me look at life differently and see that there's so much more and you gotta value every second you have because you never know what you're going to wake up to the next day."

The community showed up in great numbers to support Brooke before the girls and boys doubleheader at Willmar Civic Center Arena.

"It's kind of cool," Brooke said of all who came to support her in her fight. She has been keeping busy by building Legos and also enjoys cooking and is a Gordon Ramsay fanatic.

"To see all these people here in support — hockey is a family thing and the parents, the kids from the time they start playing spend a lot of time together — it's very impressive to see the support and the show," Willmar head coach Eric Setrum said.

There was also a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle during the doubleheader. All proceeds go to the Larsons as well as the Villnow family. Ben Villnow, a former Willmar hockey player, is also in a fight against cancer and has kids who are a part of the Cardinals' youth hockey program.

"It means a lot to us," Makenna Larson said. "It's really overwhelming to see how many people are here to support us and willing to give to help us get through this. It's awesome. I don't even have words for it."

"She has the determination and the focus," Laura said of Brooke's progression. "She's at a great spot. Our faith keeps us moving forward."

On the ice, the Cardinals won an important hockey game, beating Hutchinson in a 5-1 win behind a two goal, two assist night from senior Sophia Quinn.

Willmar is now 4-3-0 in the Section 2A standings and the Tigers are 3-4-0. Willmar won both games between the teams this season.

River Lakes is the likely top seed in the section, as the Stars went undefeated against Willmar and Hutchinson.

"We figured if we could take care of business, we should be the two seed (in Section 2A) and we have a pretty good argument for it now," Setrum said. "It was a good hard fought win."

The Cardinals play host to Sartell at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday back at Willmar Civic Center Arena with an opportunity to finish in the top three of the Central Lakes Conference."We got a chance to lock up third in the conference by ourselves," Setrum said. "Any year you finish third in the Central Lakes for hockey is a good solid season."