The seniors on the Maple Grove girls’ hockey team did some research to build a foundation for the Crimson’s season.
The fivesome came up with an African proverb that is scrawled on their locker room’s whiteboard and on their team T-shirts: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
“We just all decided that would be the best fit,” defenseman Riley Norman said.
The players are confident the inspirational quote will help their team go far this season and make them “want to be a more cohesive team,” said Tippy Hill, another defenseman.
It also helps that the Crimson has just a bit of momentum going, too. Maple Grove went 24-2-1 last season, taking the Northwest Suburban Conference crown with a 17-0-0 record. But its season ended with a loss to Wayzata in the Class 2A, Section 6 semifinals.
“We had an almost-perfect season last year, so that’s hard to beat,” winger Lauren Kaufman said.
The Crimson will try to improve on last season’s run with a new coach, Amber Hegland. She spent the past four years as an assistant coach with Armstrong/Cooper. Before that she was Wayzata’s head coach from 2000-10.
Hegland said Maple Grove is a hockey community with a lot of great kids and great tradition.
“I just love to impact kids’ lives, and this gives me an opportunity to impact different kids’ lives than I have in the past,” Hegland said.
The positivity she’s brought to the team already has had an effect, making it an easy transition.
“She’s created a different atmosphere here,” winger Hailey Herdine said. “She makes everyone want to work hard.”
Hegland’s team has a lot of varsity experience, having graduated only a few players after last season.
“Obviously our ultimate goal is to win games and win state,” Kaufman said. “But with a new coach and everything, we’re kind of focusing on each other right now.”
They’ve kind of become a new team this year, center Claire McLean said, working harder on the ice and building relationships as a team. After some recent scrimmages in Duluth, the team talked about what they did well.
McClean said Hegland really believes in her, which gives her confidence. For Norman, she likes that her coach understands that there’s more to their lives than just hockey.
“I teach by life lessons, and I want the girls to leave here having a great experience,” Hegland said. “I want them to leave here giving everything that they could to the process.
“Hopefully by doing that it takes care of the end product for us.”
Besides the coaching change, Maple Grove switched to Section 5 from Section 6. That’s significant because now it is in a section with many familiar conference foes, such as Blaine, the Section 5 champion last season.
It will be nice to play section opponents more throughout the season so the Crimson is ready for them in the playoffs, McClean said.
“We’ll just be more prepared this year,” Norman said.
There are plenty of things to work toward on the ice, Hegland said, but everything also stems from the internal drive of players. She wants to make sure the culture around the program is outstanding for the future, too.
Hegland wants to push their hockey IQs even further. Improvement every day is the goal.
“I want to become better because I know the potential that this team has and where we can take it this year,” Hill said.
And if they do go far, they’ll go there together.