(Alexandria, MN)-- Willmar and River Lakes met in the 6A section championship game for a chance to advance to the State Tournament next week at the Xcel Energy Center. Both teams tested the other’s defense throughout the first period, Willmar with an early flurry of activity. Shots from the Cardinal’s Bailey Olson, Nina Dawson and Madison Garberding were on net but stopped by the Star’s Kaydence Roeske. Willmar had two quality scoring chances and River Lakes one, while the Stars out shot the Cardinals 9-5 in the period, still both teams scoreless through the first period.
Willmar took an early penalty to start the second period and the Stars scored on the power play when Brianna Deming got the puck past Willmar goaltender Bryton Carlson for a 1-0 lead. Willmar increased the pressure on the Stars and then Madison Garberding evened the score with a quick shot that blew past Roeske for a 1-1 tie midway through the second. A few minutes later, Willmar on the power play and again Garberding found the back of the net with a wrist-shot to put Willmar up 2-1.
Willmar started the third period with a 5 on 3 power play, but were unable to take advantage. Back at even strength, both teams with scoring chances before Willmar’s Bailey Olson got the puck past Roeske on her backhand for a 3-1 Willmar lead with about eight minutes to play. Garberding picked up a hat-trick with her third goal of the night just a few minutes later as Willmar extended their lead to three goals, 4-1. Garberding wasn’t done as she netted her fourth goal of the night at the 16-minute mark of the third period. Senior goaltender Bryton Carlson had 29 saves in the victory. The final score was 5-1 in favor of the Cardinals.
Willmar is headed to the Girls State Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, February 19th. Join Todd Mattison and RJ Linder with all the play-by-play action from the State Tournament on News Talk 1340 and 96.3 FM KWLM and kwlm.com.