Tiger playoff run ends in 4-0 loss to Red Wing

Published 10:24 am Monday, February 23, 2009

About midway through the 2009 girls hockey season, Albert Lea coach Brian Blatti stood before a packed gymnasium as part of a pep fest. Listening to the coach’s season update were students, teachers and school staff, including Blatti’s coaching boss, activities director Clay Anderson.

Blatti told the audience that a season prior – his inaugural as head coach – the team had started hot and cooled off in the playoffs. (The Tigers lost 6-0 to Faribault in the section semifinals.) Blatti followed that up with good pep rally material, saying this year the team had started slowly, but intended to hit its stride come playoff time.

Blatti proved a wise man, as his team knocked off two-time section champ Austin and this year’s Section 1 top seed Northfield in a span of five days. That landed the Tigers in the section championship against No. 2 seed Red Wing. While the Wingers defeated Albert Lea 4-0 on Saturday at Four Seasons Civic Center in Owatonna, Minn., members of the Tigers team, such as senior Katie Nelson, had reason to hold their heads high.

Email newsletter signup

“I was really happy with (the season),” Nelson said, of the 13-15 season, but specifically of the finish to that season. “I’ve been on the team for five years and this is the furthest we’ve ever come.”

Unlike the last time these two teams played (Red Wing 2-1 overtime win during the regular season), the Wingers scored twice in the game’s first six minutes, the second goal a screen from the point.

“Unfortunately, it set us at a deficit, and we always have a hard time coming back from a deficit, especially two down.”

Rose Alleva scored the opening goal two and a half minutes into the game. The speedy defenseman finished with two goals and an assist. Blatti said they knew Red Wing’s game plan relied heavily on Alleva and they attempted to prepare for her in practice. But her speed was tough to match.

“We weren’t able to get down to the corners a lot,” Blatti said, adding that it impeded the team’s ability to get its offense kickstarted.

While the teams finished with similar numbers of shots on goal (Red Wing 15, Albert Lea 14), the Tigers attempts weren’t of the quality of Red Wing’s, including few opportunities to crash the net.

“It’s just the little things,” Nelson said when asked what the difference was in the result. “They were a little stronger, a little faster today. We just didn’t connect well today.”

Trailing 3-0 heading into the final period, the Tigers couldn’t mount a comeback as it spent much of the period playing short-handed, picking up five penalties.

“They didn’t get any power-play goals, but that many penalties tires us out too much,” Blatti said.

While six solid seniors exit, the Tigers will return with most of its offense intact, plus some proven younger players and bantam players ready to contribute, according to Blatti.

Nelson and forward Lauren Klick were named all-conference for their seasons.

The Tigers were also named Section 1A academic champions with a team grade point average of 3.79.

Red Wing 4, Albert Lea 0

Albert Lea 0 0 0 — 0

Red Wing 2 1 0— 0

First period— 1, Red Wing, Rosie Alleva, (unassisted), 14:29. 2, Red Wing, Jackie Friedrich (Cori Fairbanks), 11:23. Penalties: Elle Anderson, Red Wing, hooking, 7:50; Lydia Wagner, Red Wing, (hooking), 6:03.

Second period— 3, Red Wing, Alleva (Paige Haley), 13:41. Penalties: , Annie Gorman, Red Wing (checking from behind), 10:21; Wagner, Red Wing, (roughing), 5:16; Albert Lea, Sophia Jepson, Albert Lea, (roughing), 14:01; Madi Passingham, Albert Lea (holding), 6:19; Brittany Osmundson, Albert Lea, (roughing), 5:16; Sophia Jepson, Albert Lea, (slash), 4:16.

Third period— 4, Red Wing, Gorman (Alleva), 4:50. Penalties: Haley, Red Wing, checking, 9:22; Wagner, Red Wing, (checking), 4:18; Deanna Schmitz, Red Wing, (interference), :55. Lauren Draayer, Albert Lea, (high sticking), 8:33; Sophia Jepson, Albert Lea, (slashing), 8:05; Lauren Klick, Albert Lea, (holding), 5:52; Katie Nelson, Albert Lea, (interference), 5:41; Lauren Draayer, Albert Lea, (tripping), 4:31.

Shots on goal— Albert Lea 5-5-4 — 14, Red Wing 7-6-2 — 15