It was a game of firsts for the Red Wing girls' hockey team on Wednesday.
It was first-year head coach Nicole Olson's first section playoff game, and only four players had played in a playoff game before. The Wingers bookended its 5-1 win over Waseca with two more firsts: Scout Copeland and Geneva Noreen each scoring their first varsity goals.
"We know our main goal scorers," Olson said, "but when you see some of those younger kids and those girls who are getting opportunities, watching them take advantage and capitalize on it, it's been a lot fun."
Copeland scored the first goal of the game at 3 minutes, 1 second in the first period. Ashlyn Hintz scored 52 seconds later, giving the Wingers a 2-0 lead. The body language on the bench seemed to relax a bit with the early lead. From then on, Red Wing dominated the first period and much of the second.
Hintz, among others, continued to stand out on the forecheck. She was able to breakup many of the Blue Jays passes through the neutral zone and lead the rush back into the Waseca's zone. Hintz didn't shoot too often, instead she looked to pass to the trailing forward crashing the net. Hintz was finally rewarded for her efforts with the an assist on Eliza DiNatale's goal at 16:29 of the second period.
"She's always been able to skate in the zone and have good entries," DiNatale said of Hintz. "She doesn't always get the shot off, but she makes good plays or gets a scoring opportunity."
DiNatale's goal, which gave Red Wing a 4-1 lead, was a quick response to Claire Miller's shorthanded goal for Waseca 6 seconds earlier. It was also a relief and response for DiNatale after a few missed scoring chances earlier in the period.
"The most frustrating thing for me is when I get the puck and rush all the way down the ice and make moves, then I make one too many and hit the goalie or I miss the puck," DiNatale said reflecting on her many scoring chances throughout the game. "It's very frustrating, but I usually I can get it back and pass to somebody to create another opportunity. Finally getting that goal at the end felt really good especially because it wasn't just an unassisted goal. Emily (Hart) passed it to me and it was a beautiful pass. I was there and it finally clicked. We've been trying that play all year and it finally happened."
Olson said the team did a good job all night of being able to respond after a tough shift or a goal against. DiNatale's goal gave the Wingers the response Olson was looking for.
Noreen's goal at 7:03 in the third, giving the Wingers a 5-1 lead, capped off the full team effort.
"I love seeing a team that's all-around good," Hart said. Hart, a senior defenseman, led the team with three points, all assists. "Obviously that's hard to do because we're all at different skill levels, but we had two tonight that scored their first goal. ... At the beginning of the year, everyone was kind of struggling. We're all coming together and working as a team instead of individuals."
Wingers goaltender Hailey Ehlers stopped 15 of 16 shots on net.
Red Wing travels to Faribault to play in the semifinal round of the Section 1A tournament. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We do better in away games because there is less pressure on us and have less people watching all over us," Hart said. "I think we can bring the intensity with us and have lots of fun."