Tracy Cassano spoke of "squeezing all the juice from the lemon" in terms of getting everything possible out of players at previous coaching stops in Chaska/Chanhassen, Rosemount and Burnsville.
Now coaching at Minnetonka and off to 4-0 start, Cassano was reminded of the luxury of holding a plum job. She always had some really talented players. Now there's more of them.
Cassano praised "the quality of the depth" on the roster for sprinting off the mark. Minnetonka outscored Roseville, Lakeville North, Roseau and Warroad by a 32-4 margin.
"We're a confident team right now," Cassano said. "Players work hard and work together. We talk about, 'Don't give up the ship,' which means, lay it out there for your teammates. And this is an unselfish group."
Leading scorer Lacey Martin (10 goals) posted hat tricks against Roseville and Warroad. But goals have come from 11 players. Rory Guilday and Lisa LaRoche, though yet to score goals, have combined for 11 assists.
On the back end, goalie Brynn Dulac shut out the Skippers' first three opponents — "We told her it was a hat trick of shutouts," Cassano said — and didn't allow Warroad to score until Minnetonka had built a 4-0 lead.
Cassano inherited a program with three consecutive Class 2A state tournament championships from 2011 to 2013, and a team coming off its first state tournament appearance in four years.
"We're trying to keep this a powerhouse program year after year," Cassano said.
New north metro co-op
The Anoka and Spring Lake Park girls' hockey programs merged this season, the latest in a variety of partnerships to help with low numbers.
Spring Lake Park previously merged with Coon Rapids for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. The Panthers were able to go it alone the past two seasons while Coon Rapids merged with Champlin Park. That cooperative agreement remains. Anoka/Spring Lake Park started the season with a 3-3 record.
Andover began this week ranked No. 1 in the Let's Play Hockey magazine coaches' rankings. The Huskies opened their schedule with a defeat of three-time defending Class 2A champion Edina for the second consecutive season.
Blake is No. 2 and its Section 6 nemesis Edina in No. 3. Minnetonka, Forest Lake, Wayzata, Hill-Murray, North Wright County, Maple Grove and Eden Prairie complete the top 10.
In Class 1A, Warroad, the runner-up in the past two state tournaments, holds the top spot, followed by Proctor/Hermantown and Breck. Mound Westonka, Fergus Falls, South St. Paul, Duluth Marshall, East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls and Rochester Lourdes form the top 10.
Games to circle
Top-ranked Andover travels to Minnetonka on Saturday. The Huskies also play host to Forest Lake on Dec. 12 in what should be a Section 7 final preview. And Blake gets to measure itself against Edina at home on Jan. 4.
Section play begins the week of Feb. 3. The state tournament is Feb. 19-22 at Xcel Energy Center.
Team USA selections
Nine Minnesota high school players were selected to the U.S. under-18 women's national team. The list reads like a cheat sheet for the Ms. Hockey award. The players are Danielle Burgen (Chisago Lakes), Katie Davis (Edina), Brenna Fuhrman (Farmington), Rachel Golnitz (Forest Lake), Rory Guilday (Minnetonka), Peyton Hemp (Andover), Maggie Nicholson (Minnetonka), Skylar Vetter (Lakeville North boys) and Audrey Wethington (Blake).
The team will play in the IIHF U18 Women's World Championship Dec. 26-Jan. 2 in Bratislava, Slovakia.