Austin lands big blow against Tigers, 7-3

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 17, 2008

By Rocky Hulne, staff writer

The Austin girls&8217; hockey team got the inside track on earning the No. 1 seed in its section with a 7-3 victory over No. 12 Albert Lea in Riverside Arena Thursday night.

The Packers (12-8, 9-4 Big Nine) scored five times on breakaway goals &8212; including three by Catherine Wagner in the third period alone &8212; to put the Tigers on their heels.

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The breakaway goal has been a staple in Austin head coach&8217;s Denny Bray&8217;s gameplan for the past five years.

&8220;We&8217;ve had that system for four of five years and I really like it,&8221; he said. &8220;Because in girls hockey you really don&8217;t have to cover both defenseman, so why waste your forwards out there. We send just one forward out and put our right wing high. That&8217;s how we win games.&8221;

But Thursday night was the best that system has looked all season.

&8220;It hasn&8217;t happned as much as we wanted to this season and it finally worked a couple of times,&8221; said Wagner, who scored her goals on assists from Taylor Jenkins and Kyli Ellingson twice.

Ellingson broke her own record by collecting her 18th assist of the season. She set the record last year with 17 assists.

When the Packers weren&8217;t scoring goals, they were holding Albert Lea&8217;s Jenna Christensen in check as she finished with no goals on the night.

&8220;Jenna Christensen is a real good player, but I know what she&8217;s gonna do,&8221; Austin goalie Audrey DeVries, who had 31 saves, said. &8220;She&8217;s gonna deke every time and I was I waiting for it.&8221;

Austin jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period off of shorthanded goals by Jenkins and Rebekah Swancutt. Swancutt&8217;s shot was an imprssive one as she fired a slapshot over the goalie&8217;s left shoulder.

Albert Lea scored twice in the second to pull within 3-2, but Wagner scored twice in the first two minutes of the third period to put the game away.

The Tigers&8217; goals came from Morgan Walton with an assist to Christensen while the second tally was an Amy Gackstetter goal on the power play.

A big reason the Packers were able to slow down Albert Lea&8217;s attack was that DeVries did a good job of covering the puck after saves.

&8220;We keep telling her not to give them any rebounds,&8221; Bray said. &8220;I looked at our last game and you could see they were just crashing down on us. I told Audrey no rebounds and told the defense to make sure we keep them out of there.&8221;

If Austin ends up with a No. 1 seed, it will receive a bye in the first round of the Section 1A girls hockey tournament, which begins Feb. 8. The Packers have not lost a game within the section in two years. Albert Lea is now 13-6 overall and 8-5 in the Big Nine Conference.