North Shore senior Megan Maxey scored two goals and recorded three points in the Storm’s 6-2 win Tuesday, Jan. 21, in Two Harbors.
More importantly, after seven losses to start the season, the Storm have won three-straight games and are 7-5 since their disastrous start.
Even first year head coach Zack Vieau is surprised his young team has gelled as quickly as it has.
North Shore lost its top three scorers from a season ago and its top goalie. What’s more, the team has just a handful of players with varsity experience, yet the Storm has consistently been playing with three lines — depth that has been missing for North Shore for years.
“We’ve never been able to roll three lines where we can give our eighth- and ninth-graders experience and still be winning games,” Vieau said. “I could give all of the girls experience any year, but to be able to do that and win is just unexpected — to see where the girls are now from where they were at the beginning of the year is just amazing.”
In addition to young skaters, Vieau has rotated between sophomore Megan Larson and eighth-grader Harper Powell at goalie. Neither player had varsity experience before this season.
Early on, Vieau said they showed their youth and inexperience, but both have improved and are playing at a higher level.
The biggest concern for the Storm heading into the final five games of the regular season and the Section 7A tournament is health. Maxey, who is tied with Rheo Johnson for a team-leading 20 points this season, left the International Falls game with a knee injury.
Vieau knows injuries are a part of the game and one of the reasons the team is working to get as many young players as possible into important games this season.
“What we’re planning on this year and what was on our minds going forward was getting these girls used to playing as many big games as possible,” he said. “They aren’t used to these rivalry games, but having the opportunity to get eighth-, ninth- and tenth-graders, especially goaltenders, into these spotlight games is really important.”
While North Shore isn’t ready to contend with Cloquet-Esko-Carlton or Proctor-Hermantown for a section title, Vieau and the North Shore assistants are methodically building depth and chemistry up and down the roster in hope of transforming the team into a Section 7A power.
“That Cloquet team didn’t just happen,” Vieau said. “They worked for it and built it.”
North Shore (7-12) is next scheduled to play at Hayward at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23.
International Falls 1-0-1—2
North Shore 2-2-2—6
First period — 1. NS, Rheo Johnson (Chloe Hietala, Kinsey Komarek), 2:54; 2. NS, Megan Maxey (Emily Seipke), 6:07; 3. IF, Teagan Friesen (Emma Erickson), 11:06 (pp).
Second period — 4. NS, Livia Hoff (Maxey, Natalie Reineccius), 2:07 (pp); 5. NS, Maxey (Hoff, Hietala), 14:33.
Third period — 6. NS, Johnson, 3:47; 7. IF, Erickson, 9:30; 8. NS, Katie Carpenter, 12:04.
Saves — Harper Powell, NS, 4; Macey Marcotte, IF, 45.