When asked recently what game they have circled on their calendar, members of the Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato girls hockey team did not hesitate in saying in unison “Hutchinson.”
The Dragons scrimmaged Hutchinson recently, winning by a goal. Senior Alyssa Olson said things started to get a bit chippy, but that was all part of the game’s competitive nature.
“The atmosphere when you walked into the lockeroom,” Olson said, “you could tell everyone was fired up and ready to play them again.”
Team members believe they can put together a good season and finish in the top half of the Wright County Conference.
Head coach Brett Damerow is confident as well, but knows that it’s going to be a grind every night with teams like Mound-Westonka, Delano and Holy Family. Even in a tough conference, Damerow thinks his team is capable of a .500 finish and maybe advancing to a section semifinal.
“We have the right girls with the right mindset,” Damerow said. “They’re a hardworking bunch and they want to get better.”
The Dragons are an upperclassman laden team, with much of the core of the roster returning from last season. Throughout their years of playing together, there has been a chemistry formed that allows the girls to have each other’s backs.
“I also thinks it helps with uniting everyone,” senior Sydney Braaten said. “We all count on each other and hold everyone accountable, leading each other not just one person.”
Another thing Damerow said is that the team has got some young players coming up and that the team is as deep as it’s been in years.
“We have a lot of girls we can put out there and trust that they’re going to do their job,” Damerow said. “When you get into the grind of the season injuries happen. So it’s nice to be able to have the next girl-up mentality.”
One thing the team won’t have to worry about is the goaltending. Avery Stilwell is looking to build on last year in the net where she was tied for 17th in in the state for save percentage. Her 2.57 goals allowed per game put her 66th in the state in that category.
But coach Damerow is preaching that everyone has to just come in and compete hard and the teams that compete hard in the beginning of the season, tend to not taper off toward the end of the year. But all-in-all, this team is here to win.
“I think they’re a group that expect to win,” Damerow said. “They expect to get better. It’s great to coach those type of kids.”
The season begins on Thursday as the Dragons travel to Sauk Centre and take on the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle at 7 p.m.