Kristin Harsha was selected the Section 6A high school girls’ hockey coach of the year last season as a first-year head coach of the Northern Lakes Lightning, a team comprised of skaters from Pequot Lakes, Pine River-Backus and Crosby-Ironton High Schools.
Harsha connects the honor with the direction the Lightning girls’ program, which kicked off the season with a 5-2 loss to Moose Lake-Willow River on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Breezy Point Arena.
Last season, the Northern Lakes girls’ hockey team finished with a winning record (13-12) and won their division for the first time at the Schwann Cup tournament in Blaine. The Lightning’s season ended with a close 3-1 loss to Fergus Falls in the section semifinals.
Northern Lakes does lose four All-Mid-State Conference players who graduated from last year – including top goaltender Kat Jensen, defenseman Morgan Demars (a PR-B graduate) and top-scoring forwards Kaylyn Eggena and Alex Palm.
“We have a strong core group of leaders, and we have good team dynamics,” Harsha said. “Quite of few of our players attended hockey camps during the summer, and we also did some team bonding activities.”
Overall, Harsha said her squad features players with “different” types of skills. On offense, she looks for balanced scoring from three forward lines.
“With the mix of girls on our lines, we will be able to produce a lot of goals,” said Harsha, who added that all-conference honorable mention forwards Mariah Reed and Megan Snyder are top returning scorers. “But I like the balance of all three lines.”
Harsha is optimistic about the core group of defensemen, which includes junior Hannah Zimmerman, also an all-conference honorable mention pick last season.
“We’re working on things for the power play,” she said. “And I like the heavy shots we’re taking from the blue line.”
As for goaltending, junior Madison Galligan and senior Hailey Deutsch return to share time in goal.
“The girls are excited that this could be our year,” said Harsha, who added that Alexandria and Fergus Falls are again section favorites each with “strong” returning players.
Abby Kephart and Kelly Carlson are assistant coaches while Northern Lakes has added Joey Bergquist as goaltending coach. Bergquist, a 2011 Pequot Lakes graduate, is currently playing goalie for the Breezy Point North Stars’ junior hockey team.