The Minnesota River Bulldogs hockey team wasted little time in building some momentum for the upcoming season, one that coach Tom Blaido hopes will see the team improve on last year’s 6-7-1 Big South Conference mark, good for fifth place, and into the top ranks of the standings. The Bulldogs were 8-16-1 overall.
“We have a lot of talent on this year’s squad and we have the potential to be a very dangerous team if we can keep all of our pieces in place,” Blaido said. The Bulldogs return 17 letter winners.
The Bulldogs scored in the first minute in each of its first two games of the season, a 7-2 win at Rochester Century last Thursday and a 9-1 victory at Morris/Benson Area on Saturday.
Keeley Olness, the top returning point earner from a season ago, scored in the first minute at Morris, and the Bulldogs marked three goals in each period, outshooting Morris/Benson 54-11 for the game.
Nicole McCabe (24 points a season ago) had four goals, and Adrianna Bixby, Emma Seaver, Ella Boomgaarden and Tayha McKinnley each scored once.
Anna Pavlo (21 points last season) scored 47 seconds into the season opener at Rochester, and her second first-period goal made it 2-1 Bulldogs.
Boomgaarden, Olness and Bixby marked second period tallies, and Boomgaarden and Olness iced the game in the third period.
“I do expect this team to compete for the conference title, but that will certainly require us to improve weekly as the season progresses,” Blaido added.
The Bulldogs continue a hectic pace to start the season, visiting Litchfield/Dassel Cokato on Tuesday before welcoming Waconia on Thursday night for the home opener. The Bulldogs travel to Faribault on Saturday before its first Big South test against defending champion New Ulm on Thursday, Nov 21.
All are 7 p.m. face-offs.
Blaido anticipates a wide-open Big South conference chase this year.
“Girls hockey in the Big South Conference is becoming more and more competitive,” Blaido said. “Luverne looks like the team to beat with Minnesota River and New Ulm close on their heels. Worthington and Waseca will also be solid contenders for conference titles as well as both squads have the talent to run with almost anyone.”
Blaido said the Bulldogs defense will be young, and anchored by senior Boomgaarden and junior Mary Rella. The top three forward lines are well balanced and dangerous, including Olness, Pavlo, McCabe, Seaver, Bixby, Angel Maas, Darbi Dunning, Sophia Doherty and eighth-grader Makenna Mueller.
Madison Kisor was the winning goalie in each of the first two contests and returns to anchor the net. Kisor stopped 22 of 25 shots in the first two games.
Olness, Boomgaarden and McCabe are tri-captains.