John Molene / contributor
Park and visiting Woodbury skated to a 2-2 overtime in a match of numerous twist and turns in the Cottage Grove Ice Arena Saturday afternoon, Jan. 6. Woodbury's Zach Lenz slammed in the game-tying goal with just nine seconds remaining to lift the Royals into the tie. Neither team could manage a score in overtime. Park came into Saturday's game on a four-game winning streak and a 5-0-1 record in its last six games. Woodbury has been slowly improving from a rugged -7 start with two wins in its last four games. But Saturday the two rivals were fit to be tied.
Park staged a stirring third-period rally Saturday, Dec. 9, only to see it all slip away half a minute later. The Wolfpack scored twice in a minute late in the third period to tie visiting Forest Lake, but the Rangers answered with the game-winner 30 seconds later with just 1:11 left to claim a dramatic 4-2 victory.
Sixth-ranked East Ridge put five players in double figures and romped to a convincing 86-41 win over visiting Minneapolis Southwest as the Raptors opened the home season in a rare Wednesday game. New head coach Bryce Tesdahl got his first win at the school as East Ridge evened its season record at 1-1. The Raptors then improved to 2-1 with a 71-66 win over Chanhassen on Friday, Dec. 8.
The question now is what the East Ridge Raptors are going to do for an encore. At their best last season, East Ridge scored a 143.375 — a mark that earned them seventh at state. In their season debut Thursday, Dec. 7, the Raptors threw a 145.55. That score would have placed the team fourth at state last season. So it's safe to say the Raptors got the 2017-18 season off to a rousing start, easily vaulting past a good visiting Forest Lake team, 145.55 to 138.475.
With four veteran varsity starters returning — including three standout guards — expectations are running high in Cottage Grove this season for the Park High Wolfpack. "I think this group is able to go as far as they want to physically go," said Stephanie Tolkinen, who is in her 13th season as the Park head girls basketball coach and 18th year overall at Park. "I think that this is probably going to be one of those years that we could do anything that they want to do, whether it win the conference, with the section, finally make it to state.
Similar to crosstown rival East Ridge, the Woodbury Royals lost a lot of talent off last year's girls basketball team. Unlike the Raptors, however, the Royals have a star to build around in do-everything 5-10 all-star guard Rachel Hakes. Hakes may be called upon to carry an even heavier load for the Royals this season, a year before she departs to play basketball for Fairfield University. Woodbury was 15-13 overall and 9-7 in the Suburban East Conference last year, tying for fifth.
Three of the top six players return for the New Life Academy Eagles this winter, but success could be linked to how quickly newcomers to varsity respond. Key returners for the Eagles are 5-6 sophomore guard Carly Hager (9 points per game), 5-9 senior forward Nadia Nelson (4.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and 5-6 junior guard Emmy Erickson (8 ppg, 3.1 rpg). Hager and Erickson should give the Eagles some nice play in the backcourt. Hager scored nine points a game to lead the Eagles. But Nelson is the only player returning with much varsity experience along the front line.
Almost all of the chips were stacked against the Thunderbolts. Their goalie was a rookie, senior offensive leader Bryce Smith was out with a broken toe and North Suburban had just scored a demoralizing goal to force overtime. But then there was little-used freshman Jack Swedahl, who happily came to the rescue with a game-winning goal in overtime that gave South Washington County a 3-2 victory. "I just kicked it and it went in," a modest Swedahl said. "And it was a good shot."
East Ridge ninth-grader Chloe Wangensteen led area swimmers and divers in the 2017 Girls Class AA swim and dive championships Saturday. Competing at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Wangensteen finished 13th in the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:06.52. She swam a 1:06.77 in the prelims Friday, then bettered that time in the finals. Woodbury sophomore Gabby Vitela finished 15th in the 500-yard freestyle in 5:11.83.
The South Washington County Thunderbolts breezed into the 2017 state tournament with another lopsided win Nov 8. The Thunderbolts downed visiting Minneapolis Roosevelt 11-1 in section play at East Ridge to advance to the adapted soccer state tournament in the CI Division. Ninth-grade forward Tyler Tinnucci scored five goals and added an assist to pace the Thunderbolts. Senior Bryce Smith scored two goals. Nathan Ponder had a goal and three assists.