ChaskaChan GHOC - 1st Goals

Abbey Lendzyk and Quinlyn Borner each scored their first varsity goals in Chaska/Chanhassen's season-opening 7-3 win over Minneapolis on Nov. 13.

Looking for potential state champions in girls hockey? Look no farther than Section 2AA's Minnetonka and Holy Family Catholic, which begin the 2021-22 season both ranked in the pre-season top-10.

The two teams met in the section championship last season with the Skippers claiming their third consecutive title.

HOLY FAMILY CATHOLIC

The Fire graduated zero players from last year's section runner-up team with many of the skaters on the team having played together for three-plus years.

The addition of University of Minnesota commit Maddie Kaiser, who was ineligible for varsity as a junior, bolsters an already deep forward group. Kaiser scored 23 goals with 43 points in 2019-20 with state runner-up Andover.

She is the sister of Chicago Blackhawks third-round draft pick Wyatt, a standout defenseman for the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

"Kaiser is one of the best players in the country," Holy Family Catholic coach Randy Koeppl said.

Thirteen Fire skaters recorded three or more goals last season led by junior Grayson Limke with 13 tallies and 28 points. Senior Shae Messner, a transfer from Breck School, eligible mid-season, netted 10 goals as well.

Junior Maddy Helmstetter (19 points), senior Libby Kamp (18 points), junior Olivia Paidosh (17 points), junior Taylor Koeppl (16 points), and senior Kayla Woytcke (15 points) were other top-scoring skaters for Holy Family Catholic.

"We are finally an older team with eight seniors and six juniors playing significant roles in the lineup. We’re a very deep team that has three lines that can play against anyone. I think just the overall competitiveness of this group is off the charts," Koeppl said. "They have talent, but grind everyday to get better. It’s a team that doesn’t care much about who scores or gets the credit as long as we get the win. They are fast. They can all skate aggressively and want to play fast. I believe teams will struggle trying to handle our depth."

While Holy Family Catholic is deep at forward, their talent on the back end is just as impressive. Ohio State commit senior Maeve Kelly is a two-way talent with a strong end-to-end game. Senior Maddie Morgan, junior Justina Valentini and Paidosh give the Fire two strong defensive pairings.

Add in Sedona Blair, one of the top goaltenders in the state, having posted a 1.59 goals against average as a sophomore, and the Fire look to make the state tournament for the first time in program history.

"We start in the nets with Sedona Blair and we have another extremely talented goalie in Quinn McDonald that will take over while Blair leaves to play for the USA Under-18 team in December into January," Koeppl said. "On the blue line we have all five D back and a couple of freshman who will get quite a bit of playing time as well. This should be a fun group to watch come together."

CHASKA/CHANHASSEN

The Storm Hawks were 1-4 last season when scoring three or more goals, holding opponents below or at that number 10 times out of 16 games.

Finding a bit more consistent offense is something Chaska/Chanhassen expects to find in 2021-22.

The Storm Hawks are led by Penn State commit Katelyn Roberts, who has 52 goals and 52 assists coming into her senior season, and Brown University commit Elisabeth Gerebi (15 goals over the last two seasons).

Senior Bethany Velasco, who will play for Bethel University next season, also has 14 goals over the last two seasons.

Junior Alyson McPartland, senior Baillie Whalen and sophomore Brenna Westerhaus are all experienced forwards as well. Westerhaus scored six goals for Holy Family Catholic last season.

Seniors Jamie Bimberg and Maya Beise lead a young defensive core that includes eighth grader Zoe Zelinski. Sophomore Maddie Margraf, who made four starts last season, posting two wins, gets the net for the Storm Hawks this season backed up by Kelsey Brastad.

MOUND-WESTONKA/SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN

Coming off a state tournament appearance with three of the team's top-four scorers returning, the White Hawks, a co-op with Southwest Christian and Watertown-Mayer, start the season among the top teams in Class A.

Junior Sydney Leonard led the team last season with 19 goals and 35 points with junior Gretta Pioske (15 goals, 11 assists) and sophomore Camryn Hargreaves (11 goals, 12 assists) giving MW/WM/SW scoring punch upfront.

Returning skaters from Southwest Christian include sophomore Greer Hardacre (15 points), junior Ellie Schmid (11 points) and junior Tori Lacomy. Newcomers to varsity for the Stars are freshmen Gisella Harder and Elli Lindquist, and junior Maria Steussi.

Junior Lauren McQuillan is one of three goaltenders on the varsity roster.

Longtime coach Bob Kuehl listed speed and forecheck as team strengths.

"Getting all of our young players involved in varsity hockey. We have seven new players on our varsity this season. Also, focusing on specialty teams, so players know where to be and what's expected of them," said Kuehl of early-season expectations. "A lot of new parts and pieces to the puzzle. We expect to be pretty good by January and February."

Leonard is on the radar of multiple Division I programs, Kuehl said, while Pioske has already committed to Lindenwood University. A third junior, Emily Wendorf, is another potential Division I skater for the White Hawks.

MINNETONKA

A young roster in 2020-21 that leaned on strong defense and goaltender has blossomed into one of the most complete line-ups in the state of Minnesota for Minnetonka.

Already with six players returning that had 10 or more points last season, two others that scored varsity goals, the Skippers have added five transfers that played significant roles in previous years.

They included recent University of Minnesota commit defenseman Josie Hemp (19 points as a sophomore), a state champion at Andover, and junior Ava Lindsay (15 goals, 20 assists), freshman Ellie Zakrajsheck (13 points) and junior Elly Klepinger (seven points) from Breck School.

Like Hemp, Lindsay and Klepinger are both committed to the University of Minnesota.

Freshman Claire Christopherson played in all 16 games for Chaska/Chanhassen last season as well.

Minnetonka already was returning junior Grace Sadura (20 goals, 17 assists), a University of Minnesota-Duluth commit, along with sophomore Kendra Distad (11 goals, 13 assists) and sophomore Lindzi Avar (seven goals, 12 assists) from its top two lines.

Senior Olivia LaRoche, headed to Sacred Heart University next season, and sophomore Lauren Goldsworthy, give the Skippers two solid returning defenseman as well.

Senior goaltender Sophia Johnson, back-up the last two seasons, gets the net with Layla Hemp and Ashlyn Hazlett, two freshman, waiting in the wings.

"Great balance between offensive fire power and tough, but offensive defensemen," Minnetonka head coach Tracy Cassano said of the team's strengths. "An abundance of talent throughout our line-up, made up of competitive players who work hard and battle each day to get better."

Goals for the season are simple, and well, difficult.

"Work hard, work together; learn and grow throughout the season so we can win Section 2AA title and win a state championship," Cassano said.

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