CLOQUET Proctor – Hermantown goalie Abby Pajari made her varsity debut last year in the Mirages season opener at Cloquet – Esko – Carlton, and to say it didn’t go well would be a monumental understatement.
It was a disaster.
Pajari conceded three goals and was snatched before the first period was even over. It was kind of a game of Murphys Law where if something could go wrong it would go wrong too, drastically wrong, with deflection, bad bounces and the like.
It was difficult, Pajari recalled, now a junior. I got on the couch and just started to cry. I blew my first start ever. (Coach Emma Stauber) was the first to come to me. She just said, Hey, we were doing this. Just take a deep breath. She calmed me down and said it wasn’t my fault. Things just didn’t go our way. It’s not all up to you.
After that it was very difficult to regain my confidence. You just have to let it go and have a short memory.
Fast forward to Tuesday at the same venue, Northwoods Credit Union Arena, and Pajari got some redemption, making 17 saves to lead the unbeaten Mirage to a 5-1 win at Lake Superior Conference over defending Section 7A champion Lumberjacks for about 100 fans.
Proctor-Hermantown came in at No. 3 in Minnesota Class A, while CEC was at No. 9.
Last year I was nervous, said Pajari. I am certainly much more confident. Last year against Cloquet there was a lot of stress here.
The game also avenged Proctor-Hermantown’s 3-2 loss to CEC in last year’s Section 7A final. The lumberjacks finished second in the state, but got most of their offensive firepower from that squad.
Proctor-Hermantown (7-0) certainly doesn’t need a lot of extra motivation. This year’s Mirage team is pretty good without any help.
Last year, we didn’t have the end of the season we wanted or expected, said sophomore proctor-Hermantown coach Emma Stauber. We’ve worked hard and kept our noses down because the girls don’t want to feel the same as last year.
After scoring once in the first, Proctor-Hermantown went on a few more in the next two bouts as it never really doubted despite the Lumberjacks being in power six times.
CEC (4-2) only made it onto the scoreboard when Keelee Grashorn scored on the power game at 13:49 of the third period.
You have to give credit to Proctor-Hermantown, said CEC coach Courtney Olin. They are extremely skilled and have a lot of depth. I was proud of our work ethic and the fact that we didn’t give up. We just got tired in the third period and that’s a testament to the high pace the Mirage brought to tonight’s game.
The Mirage received goals from five players. They threw four lines with confidence, but showed that they are not only an attacking juggernaut but can play some defense as well.
Pajari said she is four feet tall, but she didn’t say whether she wore skates or not. However, it brings some strengths that are not so easy to measure.
I’m just trying to be quick at reading the picture and just be in a good position, Pajari said. I really trust my speed and go back and forth quickly.
Athletics and technique can go a long way.
I have to make it up somehow, Pajari said, laughing.
And so far so good for the Mirage, discovering that redemption can be sweet.
It was really nice. We have a lot of energy and the girls are always joking, Pajari said of the season. I know we really wanted to get out on this and bring it to them after the final loss of the section last year.
First Period 1. PH, Reese Heitzman (Hailey Winklesky, Natalie Berg), 3:18.
Second Period 2. PH, Michaela Phinney (Nya Sieger, Hannah Graves), 2:41; 3. PH, Kaydee High (Aurora Opsahl, Ava Anick), 11:09.
Third Period 4. PH, Izy Fairchild (Alyssa Watkins, Ella Anick), 5:45 (pp); 5. CEC, Keelee Grashorn (Lily Hanson, Tenley Stewart), 13:49 (pp); 6. PH, Macy Sieger (A. Anick), 14:37.
Rescues Abby Pajari, PH, 17; Araya Kiminski, CEC, 25.
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