RED WING — The excitement for the season opener was there. Coaches and players alike were ready to participate in their first competition in months. Then, 51 seconds into the first period, Mankato East scored a goal and it immediately indicated the type of game Red Wing was in for.

The goal, which was a result of a scrum at the front of the net more than a clean shot on net, also was an early indicator of the fortunes of both teams. By the end of the third period Red Wing was looking up at a scoreboard that read 9-3 in favor of Mankato East. Yet, the play on the ice was much closer than the lopsided score indicated.

Yes, Mankato East scored more goals than Red Wing in each period. However, the shots on goal were at a near tie, with the Cougars putting one more puck on net than the Wingers. Power plays were near equal across the board as well. Red Wing converted on two of four attempts, while Mankato West went 2-for-3. The zone time was almost equal as well.

The main difference between a win and loss for Red Wing then was its missed opportunities.

Tatum Zylka carries the puck up the ice and under a Mankato East defender's stick on Saturday. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia
Tatum Zylka carries the puck up the ice and under a Mankato East defender's stick on Saturday. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia

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“We have to just bury the pucks that were there,” Red Wing head girls’ hockey coach Nicole Olson said. “We have to capitalize and they capitalized where they needed to.”

While Red Wing was fairly effective at gaining entry into the offensive zone, they struggled to set up possession. Whereas the Cougars were not as effective in gaining entry but once there, they were able to set up good shots on net.

Mankato built a 2-0 lead through the first eight-and-a-half minutes, before Allie Roe scored on a power-play goal, assisted by Allison Kruger and Scout Copeland. The Cougars scored one more before Roe found the back of the net for a second power-play goal five minutes into the second period. Jamie Chaska and Emma Roe assisted on the goal. Mankato East then scored six unanswered goals before Madison Snyder assisted on a Jamie Chaska goal in the final minutes of the third period.

In net for the Wingers was Allie Meyer, who was getting her first start of her career. And despite the nine goals given up, it was in no way indicative of her potential. Rather part of the natural growing pains of a freshman goalie going up against Big 9 competition for the first time.

Ashlyn Hintz skates past a Mankato East defender along the boards on Saturday at Prairie Island Arena in Red Wing. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia
Ashlyn Hintz skates past a Mankato East defender along the boards on Saturday at Prairie Island Arena in Red Wing. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia

“The girl just learned goalie starting last Monday so knowing that’s her second week, she did everything that we asked of her,” Olson said. “She’s all smiles … and the girls have done a good job picking her up.”

When asked what were the most exciting takeaways from the first game of the season, Olson had a response for an immediate objective and one long-term.

“We executed our d-zone faceoffs. We’ve been working on a play that we ended up scoring on using that faceoff,” Olson said. “Otherwise, just seeing the potential that we knew on paper that we had. We saw glimpses of it all night and we could make it a very much back-and-forth game with these guys.”