Shifting ice will transform the north metro girls’ hockey landscape this winter.
Coon Rapids, which took third at the Class 2A state tournament in 2011, did not have enough skaters to dress a varsity roster. So the Cardinals recently formed a co-op with Spring Lake Park.
Before that partnership, St. Anthony Village left its co-op with Spring Lake Park to join forces with Irondale — a program with three Class 2A state tournament appearances from 2009-13.
“There wasn’t going to be a team at Coon Rapids,” said Jessica Christopherson, former Cardinals coach. “They were looking at 11 skaters and a goalie. A lot of people don’t know we had a total of 18 kids last year and we played a full varsity and JV schedule.”
Christopherson, the Cardinals coach for the past five seasons, recently resigned to focus on her primary job. Sandy Nelson, who coached at Spring Lake Park, will direct the new Cardinals-Panthers co-op program. Nelson said 23 Spring Lake Park players are expected to tryout this season, the first of a two-year agreement between the programs.
Christopherson said the numbers issue could get larger and that she expects more programs will need help staying afloat.
“I’m glad we have an answer in place and that there is a place for girls from both programs to play,” she said. “But it’s definitely a big concern. I think we will see more co-ops in [the Northwest Suburban Conference] in the next few years.”
DAVID LA VAQUE