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Girls hockey: Tigers give top-ranked Edina a scare at state

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The Tigers drew the short straw in the pre-tournament seedings and squared off against No. 1 rated Edina (25-1-1) in Thursday evening’s opening round game of the Class 2A state tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The match-up presented a stark contrast in rosters with the Tigers featuring just two seniors and one Division I college signee (Ellie Moser) while the Hornets came in with seven talented seniors and eight players already committed to big-time college programs.

“We had to go in playing as one unit and not as individuals,” Farmington coach Jon Holmes said. “The plan was to make the game much like a relay team versus a 400-meter runner.  

“If we wanted to compete and beat that team on this particular night we were going to have to be interchangeable parts in the defensive zone, meaning we needed to see the threat and the first one to anticipate had to lead a chain reaction of defenders to fill the void...We did a pretty good job but did have our breakdowns which led to some prime opportunities for them.”

Despite its underdog status Farmington (16-12-2) gave Edina all it wanted and then some before the Hornets exploded for three lightning-like goals in a span of just 1:58 in the third period to score a hard-fought 4-1 win.

Edina peppered Tiger goalie Abby Bollig with 16 shots in the first period but none found the mark as the teams hit the first break locked in a scoreless tie.

“We had two good opportunities in the first where one missed a wide-open net and the another hit the butt end of the goalie’s stick,” Holmes said. “We needed those.”

The Hornets finally found the back of the net in the second period on a goal by Olivia Kullberg but Moser, a junior already committed to play college hockey at Bemidji State, tied the count with what may have been the best individual play of the night.

With Edina on the power play Moser followed the puck into the Hornet zone, forced the goalie out on the ice and banged a shot home from out front for a shorthanded score.

“Ellie is so strong and so gritty that she is able to make plays that most other players can’t,” Holmes said. “Her potential is amazing, and each game she grows as a player.”

Bollig continued to work her magic in the second stanza, stopping 14 more shots to give her 30 saves going into the final period.

The score remained tied until the Hornets started putting even more pressure on the Farmington goal that finally paid off with the go-ahead score 4:09 into the final frame. In the next minute and a half, Emily Oden and Sophie Slattery also found the twine to give Edina some much-needed breathing room.

The Hornets dominated play over the final 17 minutes, outshooting the Section 1AA champs by a one-sided 22-7.

“Ironically, we were having the better of the play early in the period before they scored the two goals in 32 seconds,” Holmes said.

Bollig finished her busy night with 49 saves as the Hornets outshot the Tigers by a margin of 53-16.

“Abby played amazingly,” Holmes said. “She has got to be one of the most mentally tough players I have had the opportunity to coach. No matter the situation, no matter her role in it, and no matter the score she is 100 percent bought in.”

The Tigers don’t get much time to savort their gritty effort against Edina as they are back on the ice Saturday at noon to face off with Forest Lake in the consolation round semifinals.

“We said right after the game that we were on to the next goal which is to play for the consolation title,” Holmes said. “The team that let’s go of its loss the quickest and adapts to the next opportunity is the team that wins and we are ready for that challenge.”