North tops Hill-Murray in girls hockey

The North Polars girls hockey forces took a giant step toward claiming the Classic Suburban Conference title when they hosted Hill-Murray at Polar Arena Jan. 17 and posted a 2-0 victory.

In the nets for the Polars and posting her sixth shutout of the season was senior Breanna Scavo.

In the evenly played contest, Scavo came up with 17 stops. Many of her saves were from close-in, point-blank range.

On the other end of the ice, Hill-Murray net-keeper Lizz Wenzel, was nearly as effective. The Polars fired 19 shots at the ninth grader and she turned aside all but two.

Hill-Murray coach Shane Krey agreed. “You don’t win many games when you don’t score a goal,” Krey said. “We had some good chances, but we didn’t get any into their net. A major difference, was they have a seasoned goalie and we don’t. That and the fact that we had some great chances and didn’t score. They put their’s away.”

The veteran Hill-Murray mentor then smiled and said, “But now we don’t have to deal with Allie and Caitlin anymore. We’re done with them.”

Krey referred to the “ThunderCats”, Allie Thunstrom and Caitlin Hogan, now seniors, who have been teammates for the Polars since both were eighth graders. The pair will graduate this spring.

“This was a big game for us,” North coach Bill Halbrehder said. “This now takes the pressure off us and puts it on South St. Paul.”

Halbrehder referred to the next game for North which saw the Polars on the road Jan. 20 at Wakota Arena to meet conference foe and defending champion South St. Paul on their home ice sheet.

“Our young defense has improved and is playing well,” Halbrehder continued. “That, and we got good play out of our second and third lines. I’m proud of the kids. They are beginning to understand my system and have adapted very well. It’s been a great ride for me.”

Halbrehder returned to North this season to take over the reins of the girls’ hockey program.

For 21 years, he coached the boys hockey team at North (305-168-16) and moved to the Athletic Director’s position before retiring. He then became women’s hockey assistant coach at Augsburg for five years, before returning this season to Polarville.

In gaining the victory over the Pioneers, the teams skated to a 0-0 tie in the first 17 minutes.

An apparent goal on a patented rush by Thunstrom at 12:35 of the first period was waved off by an official, who ruled the net had come off its stanchions.

But a second period power play opportunity wasn’t wasted by the Polars.

A feed from Hannah Davis sprung McKaela Rees free in the Hill-Murray zone. The junior winger cut from the rim of the circle to the left of the Hill-Murray net to the deep slot. There, she found an opening through the 5-hole.

At 6:31 of the second period, North had what turned out to be the game winner.

A couple of minutes later Scavo was called on to save her shut out when Hill-Murray’s Courtney Scofield glided in alone. The sophomore defender saw her shot from the left doorstep turned aside.

The Pioneers were skating on the power play when the “ThunderCats” found a niche in the Hill-Murray defense.

Davis picked up her second point of the contest when she fed the disc to Hogan, who in turn feathered a feed into the neutral zone to Thunstrom.

Thunstrom, who’s headed to Boston College, got a step free as she crossed the Hill-Murray blue line. Her head deke pulled Wenzel to the right post. Thunstrom cut to her right and filed a shot high inside the left post at 16:54. The goal gave the Polars the 2-0 lead they carried into the third stanza of play.

The rivals matched shots in the third period 8-to-7 for Hill-Murray but neither could find the magic in the final 17 minutes to change the numbers in the scoring column.

The win for North pushed their record to 8-0 in CSC play and to 17-1-1 overall. The loss dropped the Pioneers to 4-3-1 and 8-10-2.

As North is zeroing in on the conference title, the Classic Suburban Conference girls hockey season is rapidly drawing to a close.

North has games remaining against Mahtomedi Jan 24 at Polar Arena and Jan. 27 at home against Champlin Park. North plays Sibley at West St. Paul Arena on Jan. 31, and rounds out the season at Polar Arena against Richfield on Feb. 3. Games are 7:30 p.m. scheduled starts.

The Pioneers finish the season with four 8 p.m. games at Aldrich arena against South St. Paul on Jan. 24, Sibley on Jan. 27, Richfield on Jan. 31 and non-conference foe Benilde-St. Margaret on Feb. 4.

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