New Irondale/St. Anthony girls hockey co-op off and running

Since it split from the Mounds View/Irondale co-op back in the late 1990s, the Irondale High School girls hockey team has been a one-school show but that has changed this season. The Knights are now the Irondale/St. Anthony girls hockey team.

St. Anthony joined up with Irondale in part to let its former co-op partner, Spring Lake Park High School, find a new co-op partner. Spring Lake Park ended up joining with Coon Rapids High School to form a new team.

"We had a great, long co-op with Spring Lake Park for girls hockey," said St. Anthony activities director Troy Urdahl. "With the ever-changing dynamics of hockey in the state and changing participation rates at both schools, it was in the best interests of the co-ops to look for new partners moving forward."

This is the second Irondale/St. Anthony co-op team. The two schools have joined forces for boys hockey for a number of years.

The new team is still coached by Tom Rodefeld, Irondale's longtime head coach.

"The St. Anthony girls are great, great character kids," Rodefeld said. "They work hard and fit in perfectly with our ideas and the attitude. Theyíve been great additions."

This year's Knights are lacking in experience with only six players who have extensive varsity experience. With new players coming from all over the place, Rodefeld said the varsity and junior varsity rosters are made of players who were spread out over 10 different teams last year.

"There were a lot of introductions on the first day," Rodefeld said.

Returning with regular varsity experience are senior forwards Maddie Hentges and Danielle Franke, junior forward Megan Lyke, senior defenseman Greta Nundahl, sophomore defenseman Anna Cheney and senior goalie Kalley Elwell.

Elwell played about half the varsity goalie minutes last year as she filled in for Anna Pate, who suffered a concussion and missed various games with recurring symptoms.

"When Kalley is on her game and getting support from her D, I think we can keep most of the teams on our schedule to zero," Rodefeld said.

Despite the lack of experience, Rodefeld said the team isn't feeling sorry for itself.

"The girls certainly aren't using that as a crutch," Rodefeld said. "They're accepting the challenge but with the learning curve being so high, it would be nice to have about two more weeks before we had to play our next game."

Irondale opened the season with a 5-1 loss to Spring Lake Park/Coon Rapids and followed that up with a 3-0 loss to Anoka. The Knights picked up their first win of the season last Friday when they beat Hibbing/Chisholm 5-2. The next day, Irondale fell 4-1 to Grand Rapids/Greenway.

Irondale leaned heavily on its experienced teammates in beating Hibbing. Hentges picked up a pure hat trick by scoring the final three goals of the game. She also had two assists while Cheney had a goal and two assists and Nundahl had a goal and an assist.

Hentges also scored Irondale's goal against Grand Rapids with the assists going to Lyke and Emma Beckman.

Elwell made 21 saves against Hibbing and 33 against Grand Rapids.

The slow start doesnít worry Rodefeld.

"If we're going to look at this season as a whole, this is a year where we're going to judge ourselves by how we're playing in January," said Rodefeld. "Win or lose, tomorrow we try to get better and stronger and quicker. It's not that they don't have it in them. They're working hard, we just have to teach them how to work smart and be more efficient with their opportunities."

Irondale is back in action twice this week, starting on Tuesday with an 8 p.m. home game against Blaine. The Knights hit the road on Saturday to take on Elk River at 7 p.m.

Next week, Irondale hosts Andover on Nov. 24 and its two-day, four-team tournament on Nov. 27 and 28. Participating in the tournament are Champlin Park, East Ridge and Simley.

--Brian Meyers

2015-16 Irondale/St. Anthony Village girls hockey schedule

Nov. 7    at SLP/Coon Rapids    7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10    vs. Anoka    8 p.m.
Nov. 13    at Hibbing    7:30 p.m.
Nov. 14    at Grand Rapids    2 p.m.
Nov. 17    vs. Blaine    8 p.m.
Nov. 21    at Elk River    7 p.m.    
Nov. 24    vs. Andover    7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27    Irondale tournament    TBA
Nov. 28    Irondale tournament    TBA
Dec. 5    at North Metro Stars    3 p.m.
Dec. 10    vs. Blake    8 p.m.
Dec. 12    at Armstrong/Cooper    3 p.m.
Dec. 19    vs. Totino-Grace    7:30 p.m.
Dec. 22    vs. Rogers    7:30 p.m.
Dec. 28    at Edina tournament    TBA
Dec. 29    at Edina tournament    TBA
Dec. 30    at Edina tournament    TBA
Jan. 7    at Centennial    7 p.m.
Jan. 9    vs. North Metro Stars    3 p.m.
Jan. 12    vs. Armstrong/Cooper    7:30 p.m.
Jan. 14    at Hastings    7 p.m.
Jan. 19    vs. Mounds View    7:30 p.m.
Jan. 23    at Totino-Grace    7:30 p.m.
Jan. 26    vs. SLP/Coon Rapids    7:30 p.m.
Jan. 30    at Anoka    7 p.m.

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