The Burnsville girls’ hockey program is looking for stability. So is new coach Tracy Cassano.
The former University of Minnesota forward is the school’s third coach in the past three years. It’s also her third coaching position over the past four seasons.
“It’s a change that needed to happen for our family,” said Cassano, who was a member of the Gophers’ national championship team in 2000. “It’s a good fit for our family — timing is everything.”
Cassano, who recently gave birth to her third child, coached the combined program at Chaska/Chanhassen the previous two years. She was at Rosemount prior to that short stint. Cassano was coach of the Irish for five seasons.
“It’s good to coach again in the South Suburban Conference,” Cassano said. “It’s a great opportunity for me.”
One thing that has remained constant for Burnsville’s program throughout the coaching changes has been the ability of its top line to put the puck in the net. The trio — seniors Lindsey Coleman, Britta Nelson and Paige Skaja — are off to a blazing start to the 2013-14 season.
“It’s been a little hard to adjust to how each coach wants us to play,” Nelson said. “By having the same linemates, though, we have helped each other work through it.”
And then some. The Blaze (5-2) has scored 34 goals in its first seven games. Its top line has accounted for all but five of them.
“All three of them are a big threat to score,” Cassano said.
Coleman is one of the state’s top scorers with 13 goals and 12 assists. She has scored at least one goal in all but one game, and two or more in five games.
Skaja has added nine goals and nine assists while Nelson has chipped in with seven goals and 11 assists.
“We’ve been playing together for a lot of years now,” Skaja said. “We know each other like the back of our hands. We just click.”
The trio are captains along with defenseman Emma Wittchow. Coleman and Wittchow are headed to Minnesota State Mankato.
“We have excellent leadership from our captains,” Cassano said. “They are all unique, and bring different personalities to the team.”
All of them already have learned this season where the Blaze needs to make its biggest improvement from its two losses. It lost to No. 2 Minnetonka 5-3 and No. 6 Edina 7-2. The rankings are provided by Let’s Play Hockey.
“We have to play three full periods,” Nelson said. “We have to play the entire game all the way through. We can’t take a period off.”
If they do, it could keep the Blaze from reaching its final destination — the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the state tournament.
“Getting to the state tournament would mean the world to me,” Nelson said. “It’s every kid’s goal to make it to the state tournament. It’s the ultimate dream.”