EVELETH—Tuesday night’s girls hockey matchup saw an experienced Hibbing/Chisholm team travel to a younger Rock Ridge team under the guidance of new head coach Paddy Elsmore.
And while it was their first game of the season, the Bluejackets didn’t seem to miss a beat as they scored two in the first period on their way to a 3-0 win over the Wolverines at the Eveleth Hippodrome.
Most notable for Hibbing was their prowess on special teams, where the Bluejackets got a shorthanded goal, a power play goal and fought off a five-on-three disadvantage to keep Rock Ridge from lighting the lamp.
Hibbing head coach Pete Hyduke said that it was a solid performance for his squad in their first game of the year.
“I just liked the energy the girls played with from start to finish,” Hyduke said. “They did a great job and one of the key points of the game was when we killed that five-on-three and it was a real tight game. It was a tight game the whole way through so for a first game, I’m happy with how the girls came to play.”
For Rock Ridge and Elsmore, it was the team’s third game of the season after they split a weekend road series with Two Rivers and Princeton. Elsmore said playing in front of a home crowd may have contributed to the struggles her young team faced.
“Just playing at home for the first time, I think there’s going to be some jitters,” Elsmore said. “We have a really young team so I think that certainly took effect. That’s a really good team we played and they’re really well coached. Their goalie played well and made some really big saves. Otherwise it could’ve been a 3-2 game. But I thought they had a great effort and they played really hard.”
The two teams played to a stalemate through the first half of the opening period, but Hibbing got on the board later in the frame even down a skater.
Playing shorthanded, Bluejacket senior Claire Rewertz picked up an unassisted goal, firing one past Rock Ridge netminder Nola Kwiatkowski to make it a 1-0 game.
After killing off the rest of the penalty, Hibbing got their own man advantage with Mylee Young heading to the box on a cross checking call. A minute and a half into the power play, Trista Warmbold found the back of the net for the second goal of the evening. Brynn Babich and Lily Renskers assisted on the play, giving Hibbing a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.
The Bluejackets picked up their final goal of the game just over five minutes into the second period. Abigail Sullivan picked up a steal in the opposing zone and quickly converted, getting it past Kwiatkowski to make it 3-0 on the unassisted play.
The Wolverines killed off their first penalty of the game shortly after and got their best chance to make something happen when Hibbing got two in the box within 30 seconds of each other. With a two-skater advantage for about 90 seconds, Rock Ridge wasn’t able to get many shots on net as the Bluejackets ended the threat.
The score carried through to the end of the second and neither team found the back of the net in the third to give Hibbing the 3-0 win and netminder Addison Hess the shutout.
With it being their first game of the year, Hyduke said after that plenty of his players saw important ice time as the team continues to shape itself with their new lines.
“We played some scrimmages but not a full game yet so you could tell we were a little gassed at times. But the girls stepped up. We rolled three lines and everyone got chances out there. We got to get two or three extra girls some time in the wing spot.
“Rock Ridge played very well. They’re a very well coached team. They’re a young team but I think they’ll be a team to be reckoned with soon.”
For Elsmore and the Wolverines, the 3-0 loss isn’t indicative of the effort they showed on the ice.
“I thought it was a great effort from all of the girls. 3-0 doesn’t necessarily mean we didn’t play well or we got totally outplayed. We definitely had our chances and we just needed one to sneak by. When you have a young team, that’s hard to do. We’re only two weeks into the season.”
With special teams playing a huge factor in the outcome of the game, Hyduke said his players put work in during Monday’s practice to get up to speed in those situations and it paid off immediately.
“Special teams was huge. We just worked on it. It was neat because our yellow power play was the one that got the goal. It was tenacious play. We were taking it to the net and being aggressive.”
For Rock Ridge, that’s just not something they’ve been able to work on quite yet.
“That’s part of being together for a long time and being under the same head coach,” Elsmore said. “We’re hoping to establish a system but Hibbing already has their systems. Power play isn’t necessarily the first thing you’re going to start with so it’s something that we have to work on and grow into. At the same time, that tells us that we can definitely play with them when it’s five-on-five.”
Both coaches say they’re preaching growth as the early season moves forward.
“It’s just patience and growth for us,” Elsmore said. “We have to walk our own path and keep moving and keep learning and I think these girls are excited to do that.”
“I loved the energy,” Hyduke said. “If we do things a little bit faster and improve our communication, I think you’ll see us keep growing. I think we have an upside and we know what we have to work on next.”
HC 2 1 0—3
RR 0 0 0—0
1, H, Claire Rewertz (unassisted), SH, 11:58; 2, H, Trista Warmbold (Brynn Babich, Lily Renskers), PP, 14:31.
3, Abigail Sullivan (unassisted), 5:33.
Penalties-Minutes: Hibbing/Chisholm 5-10; Rock Ridge 5-10.