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Girls' top games: Conference showdown pits Park of Cottage against East Ridge

By Brendan O'Brien, SportsEngine, 05/08/23, 8:45AM CDT


May 12: The Wolfpack and Raptors are both atop the conference standings at 5-1.

Photo by SportsEngine

We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.

Park of Cottage Grove vs. East Ridge

7 p.m., Friday, May 12

Sitting atop the Suburban East Conference standings, Park of Cottage Grove (6-1) and East Ridge (6-2) are both chasing the league championship with a 5-1 conference record. A win against the other would go a long way in determining who will be sitting atop the conference at the end of the season.

Park of Cottage Grove has been hovering around the top of the Suburban East Conference, finishing in the top five each of the last four seasons.

The outlook for 2023 might be different for the Wolfpack, however, as they secured key one-goal conference wins against White Bear Lake on April 21 and Stillwater on May 3. Other teams like Cretin-Derham Hall are still lingering, but if Park of Cottage Grove takes care of business against East Ridge, the team will move closer to controlling its own destiny for a conference championship.

Senior attack Shelby Hansen leads the Wolfpack with 22 goals and four assists, and their offense has scored 10 or more goals in five of seven games.

Unlike Park of Cottage Grove, East Ridge has not had recent success in the Suburban East Conference. The Raptors had a combined 4-14 conference record between 2021 and 2022 and have not won at least a share of the conference title since 2014. But the team has already won more conference games than the last two seasons combined and is looking to add to that number by beating the Wolfpack at home.

When East Ridge has won, it has been in dominant fashion, as the team beats opponents by an average of 12.7 goals. A balanced offense guides that effort, with four players recording 20 or more points this year, including senior attack Taylor Griffith with 21 goals and eight assists. Paired with its offense is East Ridge’s ability to steal possessions, as the team is first overall in the state for ground balls with 251.

Park of Cottage Grove has won the last four meetings against East Ridge, winning by an average of 7.8 goals. The Raptors last beat the Wolfpack 16-10 in 2017.

Hill-Murray vs. Mahtomedi

7 p.m., Monday, May 15

Top offensive players will be squaring off when Hill-Murray (4-3) and Mahtomedi (6-2) meet to start the week.

The season did not start out the way Hill-Murray would have wanted, losing in its first two games. But the Pioneers have bounced back to win four games, including a 9-8 win against No. 8 Rosemount April 20 to get over the .500 mark. Hill-Murray has done so by touting one of the top offenses in the state, averaging the ninth-most points per game with 20.71.

Senior midfielder Cate Kangas and junior midfielder Olivia Godbout each have at least 20 goals and 30 points. Kangas and Godbout also have some of the most ground balls in the state, as Kangas has scooped up a state-high 69 while Godbout has had 34. While the Pioneers’ offense has been solid, the defense has kept pace as well with the second-most forced turnovers in the state with 98.

Mahtomedi, however, will be no easy opponent. The Zephyrs have won four straight games and want to continue adding to that streak, first against Tartan/North St. Paul and then followed by beating Hill-Murray.

McKenna Cunnington's 33 goals and 44 points, the fourth most in state, can help the Zephyrs match the Pioneers' offensive standouts. Junior midfielder Evi Cegielski also provides the Zephyrs with another offensive option. Cegielski has scored 26 goals to start the season.

Mahtomedi’s play in goal has also helped the team win games, notching a .562 save percentage throughout the season and allowing an average of only 4.5 goals in its last four games.

Both teams are currently unbeaten in Metro East Conference play. Hill-Murray last won at least a share of the conference championship in 2019, while Mahtomedi did in 2018. The Pioneers have also won four of the last five meetings between the two teams.

Duluth vs. Grand Rapids/Greenway

6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 9

Grand Rapids/Greenway (4-1) has slowly become a strong out-state program, trying to achieve a winning record for the third straight season. Duluth (4-4), however, is looking to get back over .500 itself and could spoil the Lightning’s win streak in the process.

Duluth suffered three straight losses early in the season, two of which were by only one goal. Now at the .500 mark, the Wolfpack are looking to bounce back, and one way to do so would be to end Grand Rapids/Greenway’s winning streak. Getting the offense in sync will be key to winning.

When Duluth scores at least 10 goals, the team has a 4-1 record. When they score less than 10, the Wolfpack are 0-3. Attack Ella Brisbois and midfielder Grace Karakas – both juniors – each have 21 goals thus far to lead the Duluth offense, and will likely be the focal points of the offense against Grand Rapids/Greenway.

Grand Rapids/Greenway began the season with a one-goal loss to Forest Lake after falling 13-6 to the Rangers in the Class 1A, Section 7 quarterfinal last season. Since then, the Lightning found the win column and have not looked back with four consecutive victories by seven or more goals.

The team boasts one of the top offenses in the state with the third-most goals per game (16.2) and four players with 20 or more points. Junior attack Molly Pierce leads the team with 27 points, but does it by passing the ball off to her teammates, recording twice as many assists as goals scored this season.

Duluth got the best of Grand Rapids/Greenway early on in this series between the two teams, winning the first seven games dating back to 2017. Grand Rapids/Greenway has gotten the last laugh lately, however, winning four of the last five games against the Wolfpack.

Other games to keep an eye on

Blake vs. Maple Grove, 7 p.m., Friday, May 12. The No. 7-ranked Bears have won five games against non-ranked foes but lost to two top 10 teams. Maple Grove is currently atop the Northwest Suburban Conference standings with seven wins, none of which are against a ranked opponent. Look for Blake junior midfielder Cynthia Lyman (33 points) and Maple Grove senior attack Ella Olson (22 points, 20 ground balls) to be key factors in the game.

Edina vs. Minnetonka, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 9. Two of the top teams in the Lake Conference square off in a game that will be pivotal in deciding a conference champion at the end of the season. Led by senior midfielder Nicola Santoni (23 goals), the Hornets have proven to be a tough offensive team with a 6-0 record when scoring 10 or more goals. The Skippers, however, are not without offense as sophomore midfielder Clara Gilbert (42 points) and junior attack Jordyn Helling (41 points) are some of the top players in the state in points. 

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