By Ryan Schleicher – Sun FOCUS Newspapers
The Irondale Knights (16-7-1; 9-3, 18 pts.) finishes the regular season in second place in the North Suburban Conference only behind Benilde-St. Margaret’s who finished with 24 conference points.
Irondale’s success this season was a complete team effort. Junior forward Samantha Donovan led all the Knights with 50 skater points by scoring 26 goals to accompany her 24 assists in 26 games played.
Alex Toupal followed Donovan on the team with 39-skater points. Toupal had 21 assists to go along with her 18 goals in 25 games played this season. Anna Pate recorded a 91 percent save rate to help the Knights finish in second place in the North Suburban Conference.
Saturday will begin Irondale’s attempt at a state tournament berth when they open the section 5AA tournament as the sixth seed and will face Blaine (17-8-0; 13-5, 26 pts.) who is the third seed in the section by finishing second in the Northwest Suburban Conference. Blaine brings a potent offense to the ice led by junior forward Kiersten Falck who has scored 23 goals to go along with an unbelievable 44 assists in her 25 games played this season. Blaine isn’t too bad between the pipes either as Courtney Jensrud has compiled a 92-percent save rate this season by only allowing 46 goals in her over 1200 minutes played this season.
Both teams enter the section tournament playing some of their best hockey of the season. Blaine rides in on a five game winning streak whereas Irondale has won the last four out of five games they have played. The puck drops for these two teams at 7 p.m. inside the Roseville Ice Arena on Saturday night.
Totino-Grace enters their section 4A bracket as the number three seed and will face Simley High School at 5:30 on Saturday evening at the St. Thomas Ice Arena. The Eagles (11-10-4; 6-5-1, 13 pts.) have been a constant threat all season in the North Suburban Conference challenging many of the conference best teams.
Totino-Grace will ride on the solid play of their sophomore goalie Logan Knip and her 92-save percentage. Knip has only allowed 64 goals the entire season in her over 1300 minutes played. In 25 games Knip has blocked 724 of 788 shots on goal. Offensively, the Eagles rely on one another to create shot opportunities.
Kristen Dellich and Allison Parnell have made the most of those opportunities by leading the team in goals. Dellich has scored 13 goals this season whereas Parnell has scored 12. Simley High School (7-15-3; 1-9-1, 3 pts) will try and counter the Eagles with Laken Miller and her 15 goals and goalie Emma Tschida who has an 88-percent save rate.
No matter the winner, the next round does not get any easier as second seeded St. Paul United or seventh seeded Minnehaha Academy will wait in the wings. Simley enters this game emotionally depleted only winning a single game in the last month of the season.
Their last win came on Jan. 29 against Henry Sibley. Totino-Grace enters this match-up a little better going 4-3 in the month of January providing the Eagles confidence as they try to make a state tournament run.
Face-off for this quarterfinal round will be at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday night inside the St. Thomas Ice Arena.