The Phoenix

Wildfire overpower Hutchinson 5-3

Last night, the Wildfire faced off against the Hutchinson Tigers and prevailed 5-3 in a come from behind win. This key conference victory propels them to a 13-5 season record, as well as an undefeated record and 1st place position in the Wright County Conference.

The first period showcased both team’s strengths. About seven minutes into the game, the Tigers opened up scoring with a one-on-one breakaway by #18 Sabrina Tracy with the assist by #11 Alex Hantge and #19 Paige Telecky. Minutes later (8:57), the Wildfire responded with a behind the net rebound by #2 Sydney Paulsen with assists by #25 Ellie Erenstein and #12 Caitlin Rock.

With three minutes left in the first (2:56), Hutchinson was penalized and the Wildfire weren’t able to capitalize on a potential offensive opportunity. Each team played at constant and balanced pace, leading them into a 1-1 tie at the end of the period.

Team celebrates with #2 Sydney Paulsen after goal

In the second period, the Wildfire lost their momentum when the girls were penalized three times (10:15, 5:57, and 2:41). At 5:51 the Wildfire experienced a miscommunication in their defensive spacing, which led to a three-on-one counter. The Tigers second goal was scored by #7 Anna Fabel with an assist by #11 Alex Hantge, giving them into a 1-2 advantage at the end of the 2nd period.

Going into the third period, Coach Randy Koeppl elaborated on the team’s inability to score, “We played very individual hockey in the second period…We weren’t communicating with each other and no team will be successful without communication on and off the ice.”

The third period was a back and forth battle between the two teams. Five minutes in (5:44), the Wildfire opened up the period with a goal scored by #10 Molly Garin, with an assist by #8 Maeve Kelly to tie the game 2-2. Seconds after (6:02), the Tigers quickly responded with a goal scored by #11 Alex Hantge with an assist by #7 Anna Fabel, regaining Hutchinson’s lead.

#10 Molly Garin

The Wildfire knew that they needed to improve their consistency in the third period. Captain Molly Garin stated, “We had to keep a positive attitude on the bench and on the ice. Just help and encourage each other. Despite the slow start, we knew had to make some quick changes to adjust.”

About nine minutes into the third (8:48), the Wildfire displayed characteristics of positivity and motivation, leading them to a goal which tied the game 3-3. This integral goal was scored by #4 freshman Bridget Orr with assists by #9 Taylor Koeppl and #22 Olivia Paidosh.

A few minutes after the tying goal, #10 Molly Garin grabbed hold of the game by scoring an end-to-end game-winning goal with an assist by #15 Lauren Hickey. When asked about the importance of that goal, Molly said, “I felt like the momentum of the game changed in our favor.”

Molly’s goal forced Hutchinson to pull their goalie with about two minutes remaining in the game. The Wildfire were able to seal the win with a steal and empty net lay-in by #20 freshman Sadie Long (assisted by #23 Chloe McEnelly). Sadie’s goal provide a comfortable cushion in a game that had seen many shifts in momentum.

Importantly, goaltender Alex Pellicci’s 26 saves helped limit Hutchinson’s aggressive offense. Additionally, Molly’s 25th and 26th goals for the Wildfire were essential.

Regarding the comeback, Coach Koeppl said, “We had a healthy discussion after the second period and the girls came out to play and got back to playing Wildfire hockey. We got pucks to the net and crashed, used our speed through the neutral zone, and drove their D wide. It’s the sign of a good team when you don’t have your best stuff and still can win the game. Hutch is a very well-coached team and their kids play hard. I was proud of the way our girls kept battling till the end.”

Garin added, “We need to start faster in the first and second periods so we don’t fall behind our opponents. The better teams we face are going to come out strong. So we need to come out strong and on a better note to keep winning games.”

The Wildfire’s next game is on Thursday versus Breck at Anderson Ice Arena at 7:15.

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