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Danecdotes: Lightning girls expect success despite inexperience

After the best finish in team history (19-6 overall), the Northern Lakes Lightning girls hockey team have high hopes for 2017-18, but expect some growing pains with a new head coach, two new goalies and a roster full of underclassmen.

"We are a young team this year," coach Breanna Sheley said. "We have four seniors and a couple of juniors, and the rest of our team is sophomores with a couple of freshman and couple of eighth-graders.

"It will be a growing year. I think we will do well, but there will be a lot of learning and growing, and growing does not come without growing pains."

Sheley feels the greatest challenge will come with adapting two new goalies - Maddie Wahoske and Maddie Morrison - to the varsity game, as both are new to the sport. Although they are new and inexperienced, Sheley feels they are very athletic and progressing nicely - thanks in part to the work done by goalie coach Jeff Balmer - and have the attitude necessary to succeed at the varsity level.

"They are learning how to skate, how to stop pucks and everything," Sheley said. "We are at square one with them, but I'm really excited to have them both. They are both named Maddie, which just adds to the chaos, but I'm really excited to have them on board. It is incredible to me for a girl at that age to join a sport with no experience, especially when there are skates involved. I look at them as a huge inspiration not only to myself, but to all the girls on the team. They are taking risks and stepping out of their comfort zone to try something new. I think that is a huge life skill to learn."

The team is currently 1-2 on the season.

Sheley considers her team's greatest strength to be its aggression and refusal to give up, as well as the fact that her girls are a "tight-knit" team that look to support each other.

"We are very tenacious," she said. "I know we will play to the last buzzer, and they will play all three periods. They don't have any quit in them. I like to see that.

"Talent can only get you so far. It's the care for your teammates and desire to work for one another that allows you to overachieve."

As a new coach, her main focus will be on getting her team to recognize scoring opportunities and play solid defense to take some of the pressure of Morrison and Wahoske. She hopes that her team will be at peak performance in time for the postseason.

"I do expect the girls to get better every day," Sheley said. "If they come to arena ready to play and practice, and show up with a can-do attitude, I think we will like the results."

Dan Determan
Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper