Girls Hockey: Tigers end season with heartbreaking loss
The season came to an end for the Farmington Tigers girls hockey team Feb. 15, when they lost to Lakeville South 6-5 at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna. The Tigers led 5-3 heading into the third period but gave up three unanswered goals to the Cougars. This was Farmington's second year in a row making the section championship game, which they won last season on the way to being state consolation champions. The Tigers finish the season with a 21-8 overall record including the playoffs.
Head coach Jon Holmes said that despite the loss, he considers it a successful season for the team.
"In general, the season I think was a huge success," he said. "The kids came in and wanted to get back to the section final, that was our goal the entire year. Knowing that any time you're in a do-or-die situation, a single elimination-type atmosphere, it's tough to win so you just want to put yourself in the scenario to be able to get there. We had a 20-win season for the first time in many years."
Farmington started the game off with a bang when eighth-grader Claire Enright scored her fifth goal of the playoffs, assisted by junior Jenna Gerold. Six minutes later, Lakeville South scored two goals in 30 seconds to take a 2-1 lead. Senior Ellie Moser scored on a power play (assisted by freshman Brenna Fuhrman) at the end of the first to tie the game heading into the second period.
The Cougars retook the lead early in the second to make it 3-2, but the Tigers responded with three straight goals to surge ahead 5-2. Senior Gabriella Hudson scored eight minutes into the second, assisted by fellow senior Emily Rubins and junior Bailey Kelley. Then Moser found Gerold in front of the net for the second goal midway through the period and Enright scored her second goal of the game on a power play (with help from Fuhrman and junior Marissa Agerter).
The Tigers had a two-goal lead heading into the third period and were just 17 minutes away from a second-straight trip to the state tournament. However, the Cougars went on to score three goals of their own throughout the third, one on a power play, one even strength and the last short-handed. Farmington pulled senior goalie Emily Auge with 1:40 left in an attempt to tie the game but to no avail.
Holmes said that how the game was officiated, both ways, and the tempo of the game took the Tigers out of their game plan.
"I think the game was very circumstantial the way it was being officiated on both sides, it wasn't worse for one or the other," he said. "Over 30 minutes of penalties, it played more into South's advantage than ours in that we're very deep, we have a solid three lines so our whole game plan was to play as clean as possible and five-on-five for most of the game, because we felt if we continued to play five-on-five there's no way they could stay with us. So having that many penalties tiring out our same people over and over again kind of played into their hands."
Holmes also said he was not happy with how the team was playing defensively heading into the third period. He said that they knew what they needed to do to change things but had trouble executing those adjustments.
"We've only given up four goals one time this year, and that was to Blake, otherwise we've held everyone to three or less," he said. "You just don't expect your worst defensive game to come in the section final, and a lot of it was our first and second liners were tired from killing a period's worth of penalties."
Farmington graduates 11 seniors this spring including several key contributors, but they also return players like Kelley, Agerter, Enright, Gerold and Fuhrman next year.
Holmes said this year's senior group has had a great impact.
"I know how much work they've put into this, how much effort they've put into this throughout the last 12, 13, 14 years," he said. "This group has left a very positive mark on me as a coach and they've left this program in a phenomenal spot for years to come."
"The positive of having a group of seniors like we had, despite being large, they really kind of interconnect, intertwine and become a fabric of the next upperclassmen group," Holmes said. "Even the kids who had the ability to work with them. Next year, obviously as a high school coach you're always trying to play in the present, but at the same time you're always looking toward the future too. Next year coming in, we've got 13 or 14 returning letter winners, even though we're losing quite a few seniors, and that's a big number. Not just 13 or 14 people who had time, but kids who had significant impact and scored some points, and are impact players. So I'm looking at what we had versus the conference and the section and I'm very optimistic in thinking that we have the ability to set our goals very similar to this year, try and get us back to a section final and get a little revenge."