As the inside joke among Apple Valley girls’ hockey players goes, sisters Mandy, Marie and Makayla Moran are the Swedish Line — as in, all Swedish, no Finnish.
The phonetic joke, courtesy of assistant coach Rob Walsh, refers to the sisters’ production as linemates, not their lineage. Score fewer than two goals in a game and the sisters wear the dreaded Swedish tag. This explains why Makayla, a precocious seventh-grader and the team’s leading scorer, sprints to the bench anytime her line scores a second goal and tells Walsh, “We’re Fins now.”
Finishing takes on new meaning as section playoffs begin this week. Apple Valley (19-6), the No. 1 seed in Class 2A, Section 3, seeks its first state tournament appearance in 17 years. The Eagles open play at 5 p.m. Wednesday at home against No. 8 seed Hastings.
Apple Valley’s postseason fortunes will depend a great deal on the Morans, the team’s top three scorers.
“We haven’t been to state since 2003; it’s time for us to do it now,” Mandy said. “There will be tough competition, especially Eastview and Burnsville. As long as we can persevere through that, hopefully we will be headed to state.”
Mandy, a junior, centers her sisters on and off the ice. Marie and Makayla refer to Mandy — the responsible, organized oldest sibling — as “mom.”
“If Mandy wasn’t here, we’d probably be late to every practice,” Makayla said.
The sisters pile into Mandy’s 1998 Toyota Camry. Marie, a ninth-grader, pulls seniority and rides shotgun. Mandy handles the music, typically playing “Let it Go” and “Into the Unknown” from the Frozen movie soundtracks.
“I always have to tell my sisters when we’re leaving to go somewhere and to make sure they have all their gear and have their skates sharpened,” Mandy said.
On the ice, Mandy’s 14 goals and 17 assists give her 31 points, second only to Makayla. And she’s a complete player. Apple Valley coach Don “Auggie” Erdall said, “You’d be hard pressed to find a better defensive center.”
Marie, the left wing, caught fire in January with six consecutive multi-point games. The spike owes to some advice from Erdall, seconded by Mandy.
“She likes to make the cute plays; she likes to dangle,” Marie said. “But Auggie has been on her to drive and ride, to use her speed.”
Marie listened. She has 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points, third on the team.
Going into the season, Marie’s goal was to hear the public address announcer call an Apple Valley goal scored by a Moran with assists from Moran and Moran. Just one minute into the first game she got her wish. Mandy scored on assists from Marie and Moran. It happened again a little more than two minutes later, this time Makayla from Mandy and Marie.
Memorable moments beyond the boxscore also mean a lot to this sisterhood within the sisterhood.
“Being with my sisters more everyday helped me realize how important my family is,” Marie said.
Two older sisters eased Makayla’s transition to varsity hockey. Makayla, a right wing, blew past Erdall’s preseason prediction of 10 to 15 points and leads Apple Valley with 36 points on 15 goals and 21 assists. Even Mandy and Marie got more than they expected.
“The thought of playing with high school kids in seventh grade — I was petrified,” Marie said. “But Makayla is super outgoing and if there is a challenge, she’s going to do it.”
Adding Makayla to the lineup this season not only made the Eagles better, it made the sisters whole.
“It’s definitely more fun,” Mandy said. “We grew up together but weren’t always on the same sports teams. Now we can hang out more and that’s brought us closer.”