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Amsley-Benzie sets sights on perfection

WARROAD, Minn. -- On average, less than one goal a game is being scored against Warroad when Shelby Amsley-Benzie is in the nets. That's not good enough for the standout girls hockey goaltender, however. "Shelby is a perfectionist," Warroad coach...

WARROAD, Minn. -- On average, less than one goal a game is being scored against Warroad when Shelby Amsley-Benzie is in the nets.

That's not good enough for the standout girls hockey goaltender, however.

"Shelby is a perfectionist," Warroad coach David Marvin said. "I know there are goals she'd like to have back. She'd like another chance at them. She expects to throw a shutout in just about every game."

Amsley-Benzie has been close. When Warroad renews its rivalry with Roseau in a 7:30 p.m. game in Roseau on Tuesday, the junior takes an 0.87 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage into the game.

The last time these teams met, Warroad edged Roseau 2-1 in overtime in last season's Section 8A championship game.

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Roseau, 8-2, will go against a 7-1-1 Warroad team that has yet to allow more than three goals in a game this season. Amsley-Benzie has five shutouts.

Amsley-Benzie, who already has made a verbal

commitment to play college hockey at UND, is a big reason for that stingy defense.

"I never have to think twice about our goaltending," Marvin said. "Shelby is a very gifted, very determined athlete. She's very intelligent. And she's driven. She works on her game year round.

"We count on her -- maybe too much. She's playing better than she did a year ago. We haven't been as solid on the back side. We're younger there. So Shelby has been facing more shots, and some tougher ones, than last year. She's made some difficult saves. But she can make it look easy because she gets such good position."

Amsley-Benzie isn't a newcomer. She was an impact player as a first-year regular last season. Amsley-Benzie was one of the key players on a Warriors team that was state runner-up. She was named to The Associated Press all-state team.

"For a sophomore goaltender, in her first year of high school hockey, that's pretty much unheard of," Marvin said.

Roseau has some sharpshooters who will challenge Amsley-Benzie in Abby Ness (11 goals-11 assists -- 22 points), Amy Olson (8-8 -- 16) and Karlie Hedlund (7-6 -- 13). The Rams average four goals a game.

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As stingy as Amsley-Benzie has been, Warroad doesn't need a shutout from her every game to win. The Warriors' offense, led by Karley Sylvester (12-14 -- 26), Brook Story (14-11 -- 25) and Layla Marvin (8-16 -- 24), averages 6.7 goals a game.

Warroad goes against a Roseau defense that allows only 1.2 goals per game. Katie Olson and Dallas Barry share time in the nets for the Rams.

This is the first season the teams won't be vying for the Section 8A championship, as Roseau switched to Class AA in girls hockey this season.

"It's an intriguing game," Marvin said. "Roseau has played some great hockey this year. We've always battled with them. It's the first time we're playing without playoff implications. But I can't imagine any girl on either team not being excited about the game. They'll always be our biggest rival."

In other games to watch in the area this week:

Girls basketball

- North Border at Grafton, Tuesday: Two of the top teams in District 4 meet. The game also will match up two of the top guards in Region 2, high-scoring Hailey Longtin of North Border and versatile point guard Brooke Gaustad of Grafton.

Boys basketball

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- Dakota Prairie at Warwick, Monday: Undefeated Dakota Prairie's defense will be tested by a Warwick offense that scored 96 points against Midkota in its season opener last week.

- Cavalier at Thompson, Monday: Both teams return key players from teams that were qualifiers for the Region 2 tournament last season.

Boys hockey

- Thief River Falls at Warroad, Tuesday: The Prowlers are at Warroad in a rematch of the Section 8A championship game from last season. Standout goaltender Zane Gothberg of Thief River Falls will face the high-scoring offense of the defending 8A-champion Warriors, led by Brock Nelson and Brett Hebel.

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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