State Tourney Insiders: Sights and sounds from Day 2 of girls hockey

We're updating this article all day and night from St. Paul with moments captured on and off the ice during Day 2:

PWHL Minnesota players take in Class 2A quarterfinals

Plymouth native Kelly Pannek watched Thursday evening's Class 2A quarterfinal game between Maple Grove and Minnetonka with seven of her PWHL Minnesota teammates in a suite at Xcel Energy Center. However, she had hoped to take in the action from a different vantage point — behind the bench as Benilde-St. Margaret's co-head coach. The Red Knights fell just short of the Class 2A tournament after a one-goal loss to Edina in the Section 6 championship.

"It would be really special to be coaching in it," Pannek said. "That felt very full circle."

Pannek also played in the Class 2A tournament with Benilde-St. Margaret's in 2014. She recorded a hat trick in the state quarterfinals and her team finished as the runner-up to Hill-Murray. She remembers it being a cool experience to play in the tournament, no matter who was in the stands.

And for the first time, Xcel Energy Center isn't just the building where the men's professional hockey players suit up to play their games. PWHL Minnesota plays there, too. That's part of what makes this tournament special now, Pannek said.

"People used to talk about this tournament: 'Should it be at the Xcel just because the boys [tournament] is?'" Pannek said. "And now it's like, well, yeah, because this is where the women's team plays, too."

The PWHL Minnesota players happily attended the game — on an off day ahead of their home game against Boston this Sunday — to watch some of the state's best high school girls hockey players, including those who might have attended some of the PWHL games this season. It's one way for the pros to reciprocate the support shown by the fans, Pannek said.

It was important for the PWHL Minnesota players to be there on Thursday, PWHL Minnesota captain Kendall Coyne Schofield said.

"I guarantee at least one of them has been to a PWHL game," Coyne Schofield said. "I know there's probably a lot of them out there that hope they get to play on the PWHL team in the near future."

This was the second night PWHL goaltender Lauren Bench attended this year's tournament. She attended the Class 1A quarterfinals since she's helped coach top-seeded Holy Angels. Bench also played in the 2014 state tournament with Burnsville, with her team losing to Hill-Murray in the quarterfinals. She said the tournament was always a dream of hers growing up.

"Still, even being young and not really fully getting it, I don't think until I was there, it was one of my favorite hockey memories I have to date," Bench said. "I think the Minnesota high school tournament is not like anything else anywhere.

"I think, as Minnesotans, sometimes we forget this isn't the normal thing. And being able to be here with teammates who've never seen it before, never had this many girls playing high school hockey to even be able to do high school hockey and have to play club growing up, it's really cool to remember that this is a big deal to be able to have this many girls in our state playing hockey."

Being Minnesota natives, Pannek and Bench know all about the excitement of tourney time. But a few of their PWHL teammates were fascinated with the event. Many of them grew up in other states, where they played on club or travel teams hours away from home instead of high school teams.

"One of them was actually saying, 'I can't believe you have enough girls that play hockey to have a high school league, let alone two different classes,'" Pannek said.

Coyne Schofield, who grew up outside of Chicago in Palos Heights, Ill., didn't really have an opportunity to play hockey for her high school. Thursday was her chance to finally attend the girls hockey tournament she's heard so much about over the years from her teammates.

She was taken in by the atmosphere and wanted to fully grasp the tournament and its structure.

"I've been asking them a million questions," Coyne Schofield said. "Who's versus who, and how does this work? They're talking about single A and double A.

"I wish this was the model in every state of the United States, that there were enough girls playing hockey, high school hockey of this caliber. Hopefully we get there one day."

0.9 seconds

Minnetonka's Lindzi Avar scored a goal as late as a player can in a hockey period, putting the puck in the net with 0.9 seconds to play in the second period. She recalled looking up at the clock before the offensive zone faceoff with about eight seconds remaining on the clock. Then, she lost the faceoff.

"But our wingers, especially Kendra Distad, she didn't give up on that play," Avar said. "And there was just a soft spot that I found. Kendra made a perfect pass.

"I mean, if I'm being completely honest, I didn't look at the net. I didn't really know where it was; I didn't pick a corner. I just knew that if had to get off really quick. And I think the quick shot was actually why it ended up going in."

Also? "Super lucky" to score with very little time on the clock, she said.

Respect the state's scoring leader

Edina kept the state's top scorer off the scoresheet, something that hasn't happened all season to 2024 Ms. Hockey finalist Ayla Puppe of Northfield. Edina coach Sami Cowger said her team needed to pay special attention to Puppe because she doesn't record 110 points on the season "by being a casual hockey player."

"We just said, 'We're 20 players against one who can change the game at any second,' " Cowger said. "So when you're out there, respect her, play her body. But then, when she's not on the ice, you've got to take advantage of it."

Edina's defense made it tough for Northfield to generate any offense from Puppe or anyone else.

"I mean, they took away time and space everywhere on the ice," Puppe said.

Northfield coach Paige Haley credited Edina for being a defensively solid team and said the game's result obviously wasn't the outcome her Raiders wanted.

"We definitely came in with a game plan and tried to execute it," Haley said. "We weren't really able to do much."

A 'full team win' for Edina

Cowger credited her team, which includes a lot of young players, for a "full team win" in the 5-0 shutout over Northfield. The way her team's playing lately is fun to watch, and they're coming together at the right time, she added.

The Hornets have 30 goals in four postseason games, and a lot of that is a result of grit and determination, Cowger said.

"A lot of people, when they think of Edina hockey, they think of these pretty flashy goals," Cowger said "Which we've scored. But if you go back to our section final game, I think four out of five goals were just net front rebound battles."

Random draw draws ire

Maple Grove coach Jim Koltes said his players were fantastic in the game against Minnetonka, a game he said felt more like a state semifinal than a quarterfinal.

The Crimson took a 1-0 lead in and outshot the Skippers in the first period. The teams were competitive in their game earlier this season. It was 2-1 before a couple of empty-netters gave Minnetonka a 4-1 victory.

"I don't think they were ready for us," Crimson goaltender Dani Strom said after Thursday's matchup. "We knew we could beat them … We knew we could skate with them."

Koltes said the first night of the tournament was probably the best time to face a talented team such as Minnetonka.

"Our legs are not going to be any fresher than they were this evening," he added. "I think Dani (Strom) mentioned it, I think 'Tonka was maybe a little more concerned about playing us than we were them. We were pretty excited to get here and get in this venue tonight."

Minnetonka wasn't playing "Skipper hockey" in the first period and made adjustments for the final two, Minnetonka coach Tracy Cassano said.

"The girls put the pedal to the metal and outworked that team for two periods," Cassano said. "It showed in the shots, it showed in the possession time and play, [and] obviously the score."

Maple Grove competed and battled, and showed it "was not an eight seed, which we knew going into the game," Cassano said, adding that the random draw has produced a difficult matchup for her Skippers two years in a row.

"My girls have earned the No. 1 seed in the state tournament," Cassano said. "And two years in a row, we have drawn the toughest team. So, I am very much looking forward in the future to seeding all eight teams so that doesn't happen. Because it's not right by the girls."

A second look

Three potential goals were reviewed during the game. One confirmed a Minnetonka goal, while two more were no-goal calls for each team.

Cassano said coaches and players hold their breath during reviews, but her players stayed mentally ready, positive and offered supportive comments while in the huddles and waiting for the calls.

"Just comments like, 'Hey, it doesn't matter if this is a goal, if it's not a goal. Let's just keep playing. We're playing well. We're executing. We're playing Skipper hockey,' " Cassano said. "So, everything was very positive."

Maple Grove thought it tied the game at 2 with about 10 minutes left in the third period. A puck ended up on Minnetonka goaltender Layla Hemp's pad, but the whistle had already blown by the time the puck crossed the goal line, Koltes said of the review.

"That's bounces. And that's hockey," Koltes said.

Family affair

Some 25 years later, a Pohl returned to the state tournament boxscore. Emily Pohl, eldest daughter of Hill-Murray co-head coaches Johnny and Krissy, scored a power-play goal at 11:26 of the first period of Thursday's first Class 2A quarterfinal featuring the second-seeded Pioneers defeating Roseau 8-2. It was her 21st goal of the season and her first state tournament goal.

The freshman forward, however, has a way to go to catch dad and mom — two of the most decorated names in state tournament history.

Johnny scored 11 times in four Class 1A tournament appearances with Red Wing. Krissy only went twice with Park Center but scored a remarkable 21 times in those two tournaments (1999 and 2000). Johnny and Krissy are in their first season as Hill-Murray's co-head coaches, guiding the Pioneers to the state tournament for the first time since 2020.

Emily's goal, which gave the Pioneers a 3-1 lead, drew an officials' video review. They were analyzing whether she kicked the puck into the Roseau net. Johnny never saw a replay, which wasn't shown on the Xcel Energy Center scoreboard, but his daughter's honesty didn't boost his hopes.

"She came to the bench and said, 'I don't think it's going to count,'" Johnny said. "She said it hit off her foot."

Officials ruled the goal counted.

Boreen's big backhand

Hill-Murray and Roseau combined for only one second-period goal — but it was not soon to be forgotten by those bearing witness.

Hill-Murray senior Chloe Boreen made a solo rush to the Rams net before unleashing a wicked backhand shot for her second goal of the game. Her sterling individual effort gave the Pioneers a 4-1 lead and made a fan of Roseau coach Amanda Giles.

"Chloe Boreen is an absolute stud of a player," Giles said. "It didn't look like she got anything on it, but she ripped it past our kid [Jada Pelowski], who is a pretty good goalie in her own right."

Boreen surprised herself.

"It was pretty cool to score that goal," said Boreen, a 2024 Ms. Hockey Award semifinalist with 32 goals this season. "I had never scored on the backhand before."

Toughing it out

Roseau sophomore Jasmine Hovda sported a cast on her broken left wrist, an injury not slowing her down. Hovda scored against Hill-Murray and now has 24 goals this season.

"I can't maybe handle the puck as well," Hovda said.

But she proved she could shoot it, beating the Pioneers' Grace Zhan, a finalist for the 2024 Senior Goalie of the Year.

Her own goalie, Jada Pelowski, said Hovda's performance "shows how tough she is." Teammate Ella Ketring, added that Hvoda gets "inspired and motivated to push through pain."

Hometown pride

Tourney time, as it's been said, is when northern teams hate metro-area teams and public schools hate private schools. With that in mind, Roseau coach Amanda Giles promoted her team's roster, which included only two non-Roseau players, while trolling Hill-Murray — a metro-area private school.

Roseau is a school of 338 students near Minnesota's northern border.

"We are proud of our community-based team and the way we battled back against a private school that gets players from wherever," Giles said.

Rosemount looks ahead

Rosemount's players and coaches seek to apply lessons from Thursday's 6-0 quarterfinal loss against Andover yet this tournament — and beyond.

"We knew Andover was going to be physical," co-head coach Kyle Finn said. "That's their style of play — always has been. They are very good at it. We had a lot of young players out there who are going to hit the weight room hard this offseason.

"Last year there was one shift in this first game where we played our hockey," Finn said. "There were more than that this year. So, we're trending in the right direction."

Junior forward Sophie Stramel said: "For the past two years, we've made it known that we're good enough to be here and compete with these teams. We know it's going to take some time, but we want to make it the usual result. We made it two years in a row and we're not stopping here. We are going to come back next year and compete even harder."

There is still the matter of achieving a team goal later this weekend.

"We set a team goal of winning our last game," senior forward Cece Hanson said. "So, over the next two days we're going to take it to everyone and win the consolation championship."