The Prior Lake girls hockey team is eager to make a bigger impact.
To do that, the Lakers will need to step up their offense. Prior Lake was shutout eight times last winter en route to a 4-22 overall season (2-16 in the South Suburban Conference).
The Lakers have not had a winning campaign since the 2009-10 season when they went 15-9-1. Prior Lake has only reached double-digit wins once since that season, finishing 12-14-1 two seasons ago.
Lakers coach Kiersten Nelson hopes her Lakers squad can surprise some teams this year.
"We are a different team than last year and we plan to make a statement," Nelson said. "We are a young group of eager learners who are committed to getting better each day. That eagerness and commitment will serve our team well as we push through the long season and prepare for sections in February."
Prior Lake will open the season Nov. 12 at Orono at 7 p.m. The SSC opener is Nov. 16 at Shakopee at 2 p.m.
Senior Paige Pavlish led the Lakers last season in points with 22 (10 goals, 12 assists). Senior Kya Ochsendorf returns to lead the defense. She had two goals and four assists last year.
Senior Bri Elbon will return in goal for the Lakers. She started all 26 games in net for the Lakers last year, finishing with a 4.68 goals-against average and an .847 save percentage.
Ninth-graders Nina Winter and Jaiden Zollman and sophomores Adrie Zollman and Josie Reed will help anchor the defense with Ochsendorf.
Ninth-graders Lula Swanson, Ava Guillemette, Brooke Holmes and junior Cayla Collins hope to provide some offense up front with Pavlish.
Nelson said a strength of this year's squad is its team speed.
"We are young and eager to learn," Nelson said. "Our offense will be stronger than it was last season."
Prior Lake lost 6-0 to Eden Prairie in the Section 2AA quarterfinals last year. The Lakers have advanced to the semifinals in section play just four times since becoming a Class 2A program at the start of 2003-04 season.
Section 2AA is loaded with top teams, including Minnetonka and Chaska/Chanhassen. Shakopee, Holy Family, Jefferson/Kennedy and New Prague are also in the field.
Minnetonka is the defending champion.
The Lakers struggled against section teams last winter, losing to Shakopee and Eden Prairie twice and Chaska/Chanhassen, New Prague and Minnetonka once.
The Lakers don't have Minnetonka on the regular season schedule this season. They do have New Prague to open their own Thanksgiving tournament Nov. 30. Chaska/Chanhassen and St. Francis will meet in the other first-round game with the winners and losers facing off the next day.
Prior Lake will end 2019 at Holy Family Dec. 21 and will open the New Year at home versus Eden Prairie Jan. 2.