Lula Swanson

Junior Lula Swanson led Prior Lake in goals scored last year with 11, while adding six assists.

The Prior Lake girls hockey team has experience back this winter with 13 returning varsity players.

The Lakers are still young roster-wise with only six seniors — Bren Emerson, Lindsey Grove, Jenna Johnson, Ryane Kearns, Adrienne Zollman and Halle Hallberg. However, 11 of the team’s returning players are either juniors or seniors.

So what’s the goal for Prior Lake this season? Can the program have its first winning season since the 2009-10 campaign when it had 15 wins (15-9-2).

Last winter was a struggle for the Lakers, finishing 2-17 overall, 2-15 in the South Suburban Conference.

“We are focused on improving every time we step on the ice for a game or practice,” Coach Kiersten Nelson said. “The girls are determined to improve their record by holding each other accountable, facing obstacles head on, trusting the process and being the grittiest team in the SSC.”

The Lakers got off to a good start Nov. 16 in the season opener with a 3-0 home win over New Prague. Sophomore Olivia Hansen got her first-career shutout in goal with 13 saves.

Junior Lula Swanson had two goals and an assist to lead Prior Lake’s offense. She led the Lakers in goals scored last year with 11, while adding six assists.

Ava Guillemette had a goal and an assist for Prior Lake in the win. She was second on the team in points last season with 15 (4 goals, 11 assists).

Johnson also picked an assist for the Lakers against New Prague.

Kearns was third on the Lakers in points last year with 10 (7 goals, 3 assists), while junior Brooke Holmes had four goals and five assists. Grove chipped in four assists.

Other players back who saw some varsity ice time last year include junior Jaiden Zollman, sophomore Alyssa Ratnasingha and ninth-grader Allison Cammerrer.

Ninth-graders Sydney Kashmark, Gianna Neist and Abigail Grove are also expected to have an impact.

“The girls have shown their desire to outwork their opponents each and every game,” Nelson said. “Their knowledge of the systems alone with their work ethic and talent is going to surprise many teams this season.”

If the Lakers want to be competitive in the SSC and a factor in Section 2AA, they will need to score more goals. The team scored just 34 total goals in 19 games last winter.

Section 2AA is loaded with qualify teams, including Minnetonka, ranked No. 3 in the state. Holy Family is another ranked team in the section at No. 9, while Eden Prairie, Chaska/Chanhassen and Shakopee are always tough section squads.

Bloomington Jefferson and New Prague are also in the field.

The Lakers have just four playoff wins since becoming a Class 2A program at the start of the 2003-04 school year. Prior Lake lost 2-0 in the section quarterfinals last year to Minnetonka and fell 7-0 the year before to Eden Prairie.

Prior Lake opens the SSC season Nov. 20 at Shakopee. The Lakers’ first conference home game is Dec. 4 against Lakeville South.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.