Mound Westonka coach Jack Gravel made an astute observation that Northfield's postseason success owes to improvements made by goaltender Mallory Tidona.

Northfield has lost just twice since Tidona's mid-December talk with Brent Bielenberg, her coach and a former goaltender. The No. 5 seed Raiders turned stifling in the playoffs, blanking three consecutive section opponents, and Wednesday they upset No. 4 seed Mound Westonka 2-0 in the state tournament quarterfinals.

"I feel like I've improved mentally and physically," said Tidona, whose team is 21-7. "We talked after the 5-2 loss to Proctor, and I've been taking things more seriously since then."

Tidona, a junior, earned her sixth shutout of the season and won a duel with Mound Westonka senior Emma Polusny, who is committed to play at St. Cloud State. Tidona stopped 16 shots, none bigger than a second-period breakaway chance for Liz Schepers.

A Ms. Hockey semifinalist with 56 goals this season, Schepers got in alone but couldn't beat Tidona. Unaware who she was facing, Tidona said she "moved where she was going and the puck just hit me."

"I thought that was the one where we'd tie it up," Gravel said. "It would have been a different game."

Sophomore defenseman Kate Boland, verbally committed to Bemidji State, scored for Northfield (20-6-3) with 57 seconds remaining in the first period. She added an empty-net goal with 14 seconds left.

David La Vaque