While the team may not be heading to state this season, the Owatonna girls hockey team still has a bright future ahead of them, and this is in large part due to the young talent currently on the team.
Out of the 27 players on the team’s roster, 17 are either freshmen or sophomores, and they already making a big contribution to a team that went 16-4. Two of the team’s top scorers were in that age range.
“Being able to rely on the younger players to step up like our sophomores and freshmen being able to step up and score a lot of points and be offensive and being strong on the defensive side, too, with having three of our starting forward defensemen a 10th grade or younger is a huge piece,” Head Coach Tony Cloud said.
Two players that really stand out in this young class are freshman Samantha Bogen and sophomore Ezra Oien, with the two combining to be responsible for 75 points this past season.
Bogen really came into her own this past season, collecting two hat tricks, with the biggest highlight of her season coming in the March 2 game against Winona, where she scored five goals.
And then, there’s Oien, who continued to shine this season. One of her most recent accomplishments being that she scored her 100th point as a part of the varsity roster and became only the seventh person in the team’s history to do so.
“It's been a testament to the level of play that our team has had for the last couple of years, being able to go up and put a lot of points on the board against our conference opponents and then being able to be competitive in our non-conference games as well,” Cloud said. “It's a goal that she had set out for herself when she was in the program as an eighth grader, too. She looked at the school leader boards and said, ‘I want to get to this spot.’"
Cloud said that what really impresses him with this group of players is how driven they are and how they are determined to get better. He noted that with the team again failing to get past the sections, it only makes them want it more.
“They're a very hungry group of kids that want to continue to improve and push themselves,” Cloud said. “So for me as the coach, it helps me to keep getting them new stuff and being able to go deeper in all the things that I'm working towards to get them to be more complete hockey players and be a little bit less reliant on one or two individuals, but more of the whole team.”
One big thing Cloud said that has really helped these players develop is the cast of upper classmen around them, which he believes will only make the team even better as this group grows and passes these lessons learned on to whoever the next group of young players may be.