By: John Sherman
Leah Chase is one of a handful of seniors on a very young Hopkins High girls hockey team this season, and when her time came to step up she was ready.
With 15 seconds remaining in the third period against Wayzata Jan. 8, Chase skated down the side of the rink and threw a quick wrist shot past Wayzata goalie McKenna Lorenz for the game-winner.
“We were not shooting the puck enough,” said Hopkins head coach Vin Paolucci. “So we told the girls to put it on net.”
Luckily, Chase was listening. Nina Rodgers and eighth-grader Stella Haberman assisted on the winning goal.
The game was a battle between two of the best goalies in the Lake Conference. Lorenz made 18 saves for Wayzata while Erin O’Neil countered with 27 for the Royals.
“Both goalies played well,” said Paolucci. “Erin made the big saves when we needed them. One of the best things about Erin is the way she takes coaching. She wants to continue to improve. Her mindset has been more aggressive this season, and that is why she’s becoming a better goalie.”
Corbin Boyd scored Hopkins’ first goal in the Wayzata game on an assist from Rodgers. Later, Rodgers scored with assists from Boyd and Rachael St. Clair.
Rodgers’ three points went a long way in securing the victory. It had been a whirlwind week for her because she was on leave in Finland with one of the USA Junior National teams.
“With the time change and the travel, it takes a few days for a player to get her legs back,” said Paolucci. “Nina had a good game.”
Kaitlyn Klein was the No. 1 star for Wayzata as she scored both Trojan goals.
Hopkins’ victory gave the Royals a 2-2-0 record for the first half of the Lake Conference schedule. The Royals had wins over Edina and Wayzata and losses to Minnetonka and Eden Prairie the first time through.
“Our goal is to get a little better each week,” said Paolucci. “Our girls show up, work hard and take it seriously.”