Tigers girls hockey fights through the meat grinder
To say that the Farmington Tigers girls hockey team's recent schedule has been tough would be an understatement. Daunting would probably be a better descriptor, or the old but apt cliche "meat grinder." The Tigers' last three opponents have been top-ranked in class 2A Blake, seventh-ranked in 2A Maple Grove and South Suburban Conference rival Prior Lake. While the Tigers went 1-2 over that stretch, they certainly showed their mettle. Farmington fell at home to Maple Grove 2-1, won at Prior Lake 5-4 and then played a tough Blake Bears team for three full periods before losing 4-2. The Tigers are now 13-5 overall and 7-3 in SSC play, two-and-a-half games behind Eagan in the standings.
Against Maple Grove, Farmington was set back with several players out due to sickness and more recovering. The Crimson scored the first goal of the game in the first period. The Tigers responded with a goal from senior Alexia Budensiek near the end of the period to tie the game at one apiece. It remained tied at one until the third period when Maple Grove scored again to win 2-1.
The win at Prior Lake was back-and-forth the entire game. Farmington scored first on a goal from freshman Carly Lancaster and Prior Lake responded. This was repeated again after a goal from senior Ellie Moser and it was 2-2 at the end of the first period. Senior Gabriella Hudson started the second period off with a goal for the Tigers to take a 3-2 lead. However, Prior Lake scored two more in the period to lead 4-3 heading into the third. Two third-period goals with less than two minutes left by Moser and junior Jenna Gerold gave the Tigers the 5-4 victory.
Moser's goal in the third against Prior Lake was the 100th in her career, which put her eighth all-time on the scoring list. However, head coach Jon Holmes said it's the most goals scored since Farmington moved up to class 2A and began competing in the SSC.
"She's the epitome of what a captain should be," he said. "She not only works hard on the ice, she works equally if not even harder off the ice, both at hockey and at just being a good student and a mentor for the younger girls on our team and the younger girls throughout Farmington and the youth association. She really takes a lot of kids under her wing."
The Tigers gave the top-ranked Blake Bears quite the scare Saturday, Jan. 13, and proved they can play with anybody in the state. Farmington scored first in the game on a power-play goal from junior Marissa Agerter, and while Blake was able to answer, the Tigers took a 2-1 lead at the end of the first on a goal from Moser. Farmington maintained that 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but the Bears were able to tie, take the lead and then extend that lead with three goals in the third (the last coming in the final minutes) to win 4-2.
Plenty to feel good about
Holmes, while lamenting the losses, said that the last few weeks have benefited the Tigers.
"The last couple weeks have been good for us in a lot of different ways, we kind of went through some adversity," he said. "We had nine girls out sick the day before the Maple Grove game and six of the nine made it back to play, but obviously they weren't (fully healthy). We kept it to a goal and actually gave ourselves a chance to win that game, which from a coaching standpoint, that showed us how deep we are which is awesome."
Farmington was able to bounce back from that loss and get fully healthy in time for the Prior Lake and Blake games.
"We came back and played Prior Lake, a game where on paper we should win that game coming into it, but we got down and we were down 4-3 with less than a minute and a half left, where we scored two goals in 20 seconds to win it," Holmes said. "That was another big one, where it kind of showed that even though they weren't playing the greatest for the game, they were able to get it together at the end and do what great teams do, still win the game."
The game against Blake really gave the team confidence that they can play with anybody according to Holmes.
"We had them (Blake) down 2-1 in the third and gave ourselves a chance to win all the way to the end," Holmes explained. "That was our goal going in, to be within a goal in the last few minutes of the game to try and have a chance to put it away. So all in all, a pretty good two weeks for us. The game pretty much proved that we don't have to shake in our boots for anyone that we play. We not only played them pretty evenly, there were a lot of times where we had them on their heels, so when we walk into a game we should feel like, no matter who the opponent is, we have a chance to win."
Farmington hosts Rosemount on Wednesday, Jan. 17, and then welcomes Apple Valley on Saturday, Jan. 20.