Back to state
The Farmington Tigers girls' hockey team is state tournament-bound for the second time in three years after a nail-biter of a game Thursday night, Feb. 14, in Owatonna. The Tigers faced off with the Lakeville North Panthers at the Four Seasons Center and led 4-1 in the second period. However, North came back to tie the game and send it to overtime. After a scoreless first overtime, Farmington scored less than a minute into the second overtime to win 5-4 and advance to the state tournament for the second time in three years. Two years ago, the Tigers won the consolation bracket with wins over Forest Lake and Eastview after falling to Edina in the opening round.
Head coach Jon Holmes said that he and his team have been talking about going to state all season and that has helped lessen the distraction-level of making it to the Xcel Energy Center.
"Number one, we've had our eye on this since October and we've talked about it constantly. We would reference it on a weekly basis in practices and in locker rooms, about where we want to be and what we want to do and what that looks like," he said. "So they're used to having that talk, to having that visualization side to it. And then the second piece is that this team has been phenomenal with any sort of adversity, if something comes up that's a major item is just a road bump."
Farmington will play No. 2 seed Andover in the first round of the state tournament at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, Feb. 21, at the Xcel Energy Center. Andover went 20-4 in the regular season and was undefeated in the Northwest Suburban-North Conference (15-0). In the Section 7AA playoffs, they beat St. Francis/North Branch 3-1, Elk River/Zimmerman 4-3 and Forest Lake 4-3. Andover finished the regular season ranked No. 4 in Class AA behind Blake, Edina and Forest Lake. Farmington and Andover had two common opponents this season—Blake and Maple Grove—with the Tigers losing to Blake 4-3 and beating Maple Grove 2-1, while Andover also lost to Blake twice by scores of 4-3 and beat Maple Grove 3-0.
"They have a really solid top line. They mirror us in a way that they're young, they're talented, they have I think six Division 1 commits, so they pretty stacked in terms of Division 1 talent," Holmes said about the Tigers' first-round opponent. "I've seen them play a couple times so I kind of know what to expect, they'll mirror quite a bit some of these games we've already played with some of the top 10 teams in the state. We've faired well in those, a lot of those games we had chance to win or we lost on an open-netter in overtime. The difference being again that we're just a little bit different with Jenna (senior Jenna Gerold) back and Bailey Kelley back again too, we're not quite the same team that we were when we saw some of those other teams."
Should the Tigers win, they would play the winner of White Bear Lake and No. 3-seeded Brainerd on Friday at 6 p.m. If they lose, they will play on Friday at the TRIA Rink at the Treasure Island Center at either 10 a.m. or 12 p.m.
Double overtime to advance
Many fans most likely had flashbacks to last year's Section 1AA championship game where Farmington led Lakeville South 5-3 after two periods before the Cougars scored three unanswered goals in the third to advance. However, this time the Tigers were able to survive the comeback and secure the win. This was the third time this season Farmington beat Lakeville North and beating a team three times in one season is extraordinarily difficult due to familiarity.
Senior Jenna Gerold started off the scoring with an unassisted goal in the first two minutes. Not even three minutes later freshman Claire Enright scored with help from fellow freshman Samantha Moehle and the Tigers led 2-0. North then answered to cut Farmington's lead to 2-1 late in the first but the Tigers were able to go ahead 3-1 before the end of the period on another goal from Enright, this time unassisted.
Sophomore Brenna Fuhrman scored unassisted a couple minutes into the second period on a power play and Farmington led 4-1. Lakeville North scored midway through the period and the Tigers led 4-2 after the second. The Panthers then scored two more goals in the third—one on a penalty shot—to send the game into overtime. After a scoreless first overtime, Enright scored with help from Gerold (giving her the hat trick for the game) in the opening minute of the second overtime to give the Tigers the win.
Penalties played a significant role in the game as the two teams committed a total of 16 infractions for 30 penalty minutes. Farmington committed 10 of those penalties but the Panthers were just 1-for-8 on power plays, while the Tigers were just 1-for-6. Farmington outshot Lakeville North 28-22 across the four-plus periods.
Holmes said it the game reminded he and his staff a little too much to the prior year.
"It was getting a little too erie for I think us coaches for sure that were there last year and some of the kids, it's one of those things where it's like 'not again'," he said. "The big difference was that last year the penalties were going on both sides and it was really slowing the game down and causing issues for both sides. This time we just couldn't get out of it just being against us. It became very tough to stay with the mental mindset through that but give them credit, they did, and that's the key piece that won it, it was all mental mindset."
"They have a really solid top line. They mirror us in a way that they're young, they're talented, they have I think six Division 1 commits, so they pretty stacked in terms of Division 1 talent. I've seen them play a couple times so I kind of know what to expect, they'll mirror quite a bit some of these games we've already played with the top 10 teams in the state. We've faired well in those, a lot of those games we had chance to win or we lost on an open-netter in overtime. The difference being again that we're just a little bit different with Jenna back and Bailey Kelley back again too, we're not quite the same team that we were when we saw some of those other teams."