Albert Lea's Mariah Leach (13) brings the puck down ice Friday at City Arena. -- Andrew Dyrdal

Tigers win, advance

Published 12:36am Saturday, February 12, 2011

With their third leading scorer, Natasha Moyer, out of the lineup Friday due to illness, the Albert Lea Tigers girls’ hockey team had to juggle their lines and found junior Mariah Leach filling in and playing center for the first this season.

She didn’t miss a beat.

Leach scored two goals as the No. 4-seeded Tigers defeated the No. 5 New Prague Trojans 2-1 in the first-round of the Section 1A tournament at City Arena.

The last two minutes and 40 seconds of the game had the crowd up and out of their seats as the Tigers’ Megan Pulley was called for a holding call with 2:36 left in the game with Albert Lea leading 2-1.

The Trojans went on a five-on-four advantage and eventually six-on-four as the Trojans pulled their goalie as the looked to tie the game with 1:16 left on the clock.

The Tigers’ penalty kill unit more than held their own as they cleared the puck several times and secured the 2-1 victory.

“We’ve got a team that kills penalties very well,” Tigers head coach Paul Willett said. “We’re about 85 percent on killing penalties on the year which isn’t half bad. I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew the kids would do their job.”

The Tigers got on the scoreboard with 3:08 remaining in the first period as Mariah Leach scored on an assist from Sam Stanley.

The Tigers ended the first period with a 1-0 lead.

In the second period, Leach scored her second goal of the game at the 4:47 mark to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

Eight minutes later, the Trojans scored a goal as Mackenzie Smith found the back of the net at the 12:32 mark on assists from Mikaela Algren and Marissa Kivi.

Leach ended the night with two goals in her first game playing center this season.

“She did a fantastic job with it,” Willett said. “She’s a smart hockey player. She’s got great hockey I.Q. and she understands the game.”

Along with a great offensive night from Leach, the Tigers picked up the intensity on defense and allowed only 19 shots and kept the Trojans’ offense at bay.

“We’ve worked very, very hard on playing away from the puck, playing without the puck and taking care of our defensive zone,” Willett said. “I thought we did a fantastic job of that tonight. We really only allowed four or five quality opportunities and if you can do that your going to win a lot of hockey games.”

Sidney Conley earned the win for Albert Lea as she recorded 18 saves on 19 shots.

Shyler Sletta took the loss for New Prague as she recorded 17 saves on 19 shots.

Albert Lea is back in action at 7 p.m. Tuesday as they play at No. 1 seed Red Wing.