Packers Host Mirage
Proctor/Hermantown girls hockey road trip ends with a win and pizza party with longtime rival.
ST. PAUL — Proctor/Hermantown girls hockey made the most of its Twin Cities road trip in a rematch of the Class 1A state tournament third-place game against the South St. Paul Packers.
South St. Paul, which fell 5-3 at home on Saturday in Doug Woog Arena, hosted the Mirage (6-5-1) for a pizza party after the game. That’s 10 months removed from when the Packers won 3-2 in overtime last season at the Xcel Energy Center.
South St. Paul (6-5-0) hosting a northern Minnesota team for pizza after regular-season games has been the norm for years, except for during the COVID-19 pandemic. Packers head coach Dave Palmquist, who has been coaching for 30 years since high school girls hockey’s beginnings in Minnesota, said he appreciates northern squads such as the Mirage coming down to compete.
“Yeah, we’re going to feed them upstairs and send them home with their stomachs full and try to be as first class as we can be as a program and do it for them,” Palmquist said. ”I know they would do the same for us.”
Packers sophomore forward Sidney Thompson said the hospitality works out. Thompson played for the Packers as a freshman last season.
“Everyone’s pretty nice after the game, and it usually goes well,” Thompson said.
Proctor/Hermantown head coach Emma Stauber, who faced Palmquist’s squads many times as a player and coach, can appreciate the hospitality amid one of six trips to the metro area this season. The Mirage have another four to go, and possibly a fifth, if the team gets back to Xcel Energy Center in February.
“He’s a very thoughtful coach, very well-disciplined teams,” Stauber said about Palmquist and the Packers. “They’re always good. They always work hard. So, regardless of who he’s got talent-wise, he’s always going to give us a game, so that’s why it’s so fun to play him and his program.”
Proctor/Hermantown junior forward Jane Eckstrom said her team got on the bus at 7 a.m. Saturday morning to get to South St. Paul for the 1 p.m. game. Eckstrom earned the team’s hard-hat award after the game when the Mirage already had an eight-hour day with a trip home ahead. Eckstrom scored and assisted on a goal.
“I think as a team, we love the team trips and the bus ride,” Eckstrom said. “It’s always a great time to get to know everyone better. We enjoy every moment we can get together. All the trips this season really mean a lot to us, and we make the best of it that we can.”
Mirage maintained the lead
Junior forward Ella Rothe most of it for the Mirage early with a first period goal on assists from Hailey Jussila and Morgan LaValley. South St. Paul responded in less than a minute when junior forward Alida Ahern tied the game 1-1 on an assist from junior defenseman Lily Pachl.
The Mirage then built a two-goal, 3-1 lead in the second period on goals from Eckstrom and senior Izy Fairchild as Anika Burke assisted on both scores. Eckstrom and Fairchild notably assisted on each other’s goals.
South St. Paul closed the gap to 3-2 early in the third period when Pachl scored unassisted, but the Mirage made 4-2 less than three minutes later. Pachl gave her team another chance in the final two minutes when she scored for a 4-3 deficit on Eva Beck’s assist as the Packers left an empty net.
The Packers couldn’t tie it up after the ensuing faceoff as Burke put the Mirage up 5-3 with an empty-net goal in the final second of regulation. The Mirage finished with a 34-20 shots-on-goal advantage.
Mirage goalie Suri Langley stopped 17 shots for a .850 save percentage. Packers goalie Molly Jeffrey had 29 saves and an .879 save percentage.
Proctor/Hermantown won a third-straight contest after a 3-5-1 start to the season. For South St. Paul, the loss ended its three-game winning streak.