State champions

Litchfield Dassel Cokato’s state championship 15U girls hockey team celebrates on the ice after claiming the title March 28 at Dodge County Ice Arena. The team includes: front, Kira Kuechle; middle, Olivia Robertson, Stella Hillmann, Krista Tormanen, Camryn Iverson, Natalia Lund, Gabby Robertson, Brynn Lund, Abby Woelfel, Brooke Polzin, Lydia Schultz; back, coaches Dan Robertson and Joel Hillmann.

Litchfield Dassel Cokato’s 15UB girls hockey team won the Minnesota State Championship on March 28 at the Dodge County Ice Arena in Kasson.

“The weekend was an example of exactly who we were all season,” LDC coach Dan Robertson said. “We gave up less than a goal per game this year and we did the same during the tournament. Our goalie, Kira Kuechle, is outstanding as are all four of our defense. Stella Hillman, Brynn Lund, Natalia Lund and Olivia Robertson have been stalwarts on the back end of our team and they take it personally if anyone scores a goal against us. Not only that, they don’t even want to let shots get to our goalie. This shows with us only giving up 11 shots per game in each game this weekend. You just don’t see that level of personal accountability and effort every day.”

The road to the championship trophy was not an easy one as the team fought through adversity in their first game as they ran into a “red hot” goaltender from Blaine-St. Louis Park. The team peppered the BSP goalie with shots but she turned away most of them. LDC was down 1-0 until late in the second period when it finally put two shots past the goalie. The first goal came on a shot from the point from defenseman Olivia Robertson. Less than 20 seconds later, her twin sister Gabby Robertson added a goal on a breakaway. Abby Woelfel added one more goal in the third period for a 3-1 margin. LDC outshot BSP by a margin of 39-11.

LDC met a fast skating Osseo-Maple Grove team in the state semifinals, but LDC’s skilled players were clearly focused on scoring goals after Friday’s battle. They took control of the game early and cruised to a 5-1 victory. The team passed the puck well and were able to wear down the OMG attackers with strong defense and calm puck movement on offense. LDC outshot OMG 41-11 in this game. Scoring goals for the team were Natalia Lund, Camryn Iverson, Gabby Robertson, Olivia Robertson and Krista Tormanen.

The stage was set for a tough State Championship game against Alexandria on a Sunday afternoon.

The game was a rematch of the region championship game from the previous Sunday where LDC beat Alexandria 4-2. The intense affair featured end-to-end action for the first and second periods, but the teams entered the third period locked in a scoreless tie. That’s when LDC took control, scoring two goals and killing off a 6-on-4 situation late in the game. The first goal came on a blast from the point from Stella Hillmann that was re-directed by Krista Tormanen on the way to the net. The second goal came on a tremendous end-to-end effort finished with a beautiful shot over the goalie’s glove by Camryn Iverson. LDC outshot Alexandria 23-11 in the game.

When the coaches were asked about the success of the weekend, they were challenged to come up with just one reason the team won the trophy.

“This team has hard-working players surrounded by a great support network,” coach Joel Hillmann said. “We sold the maximum number of tickets to the games this weekend. We were two hours away from home, but we filled the stands with extended family, friends, fellow LDC hockey players. It was great to see the support for these girls.

“Dan commented on our defense already,” Hillmann said. “Our team is built from the ‘back to the front’…and our forwards are as good as our defense. We saw it again this weekend. We scored 10 goals in our three games and never did we have a girl score more than one goal in a game. All of our players can put the puck in the net…and they do.”

The State Championship was especially sweet for some members of the team as seven of the players were on a team that qualified for the State Tournament last year, only to have their first game cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic two hours before the puck dropped. With the age level change, some of those players were not on this year’s state championship team, but the girls want to share their victory with those girls from last year.

“This a special group of girls. They play hard, with high effort and genuine care for their teammates,” managers Todd and Sarah Kuechle said. “They are even more special off the ice. We went to numerous team meals or events where the restaurant hosts or managers would pull us aside on the way out the door and comment on how courteous and polite the girls were. That was pretty heartwarming. They are good hockey players, but even better people.”