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GIRLS HOCKEY: Persistence pays off for Roseau

ROSEAU, Minn. — When it comes to offense, persistence has paid off for Roseau.

The Rams will be making their fourth appearance in the Minnesota girls state high school hockey tournament Thursday. They meet Benilde-St. Margaret’s in a 6 p.m. Class AA quarterfinal game at St. Paul Xcel Energy Center.

The 16-12 Rams average 3.6 goals a game. They’ve scored with balance. And they’ve scored by putting a lot of shots on goal — 900 in all this season, 349 more tries than their opponents. In only six games has an opponent put more shots on goal than the Rams.

“We do a pretty good job of controlling play,’’ Roseau coach Steve Huglen said. “We have a really good skating team. It is three lines, 11 forwards, plus our defensemen. We’ve been able to use that depth to our advantage and really put pressure on teams. For the most part, we’ve carried the play. That’s a positive.

“But we have had an issue with finishing. Part of it is that we’ve seen some really good goaltenders. But sometimes it isn’t having patience. Sometimes it’s just throwing the puck to the net and not shooting well, putting shots in to the goalie’s stomach.’’

Coach and players admit that it is frustrating at times.

“It’s crazy that more of our shots don’t go in,’’ junior forward Sabrina Goos said. “We’ve gotten so many opportunities. I don’t know why we don’t score more. We’ve hit some pipes and had some bad bounces. They just don’t always go in.’’

Goos is the Rams’ second-leading scorer. Tianna Gunderson (23-12—35) leads the way, followed by Goos (14-13—27) and Maddy Helgeson (15-11—26).

No Rams player appears in the top 50 in goals scored or in the top 100 in points in the state during the regular season, according to listings by the website Gunderson, with 19 regular-season goals, tied for 59th in the state in that category.

Huglen said part of that is a schedule that he calls perhaps the toughest a Roseau team has played. “There aren’t a lot of games where we were going to open up big scores,’’ the coach said.

“And, because we run three lines, we have good balance. It doesn’t surprise me when any of our girls score. They’re all capable. But we don’t have a girl like (East Grand Forks Senior High’s) Haley Mack, a great sniper like that.’’

What the Rams have are 10 players who have scored 10 or more points.

The top-scoring line of Gunderson, Goos and Emily Pahlen combines for 41 goals and 80 points. The line of Mary Przekwas and sisters Maddy and Morgan Helgeson isn’t far behind (35 goals, 66 points).

“A lot of teams count on one or two big scorers,’’ Gunderson said. “We have to work as a team. We do a great job of moving the puck, getting it to the net and working on rebounds.’’

The work paid off. So did persistence.

Roseau’s record at one point was 8-10. But the Rams are going to state on an 8-2 run. The reason for the turnaround? “It was hard work,’’ Goos said. “Our goal all year was getting to state. And we accomplished it.’’

The schedule doesn’t get easier. Roseau didn’t get a top-five seed. By the draw, the Rams wound up with No. 1 seed Benilde-St. Margaret’s (25-2-1) in the opening round.

“I don’t know if it really matters,’’ Huglen said. “You have to beat them all at some point to win it. And it’s nothing new for us; not a lot of our games have been easy.’’