Lakeville North girls hockey ‘sneaks out’ 4-1 win over Farmington

Nick Kelly, Head Beat Reporter

At first glance, a 4-1 Lakeville North win makes it look as they had no trouble with the Farmington Tigers.

But Panther head coach Buck Kochevar didn’t quite see it that way.

“I think we actually snuck this game out tonight,” he said.

Whether or not the Farmington Tigers outplayed Lakeville North, the Panthers ultimately beat the Tigers in the game’s most crucial stat: the score. With the 4-1 win, North moves to 5-2-1 on the season and will face Burnsville early next week.

While Kochevar didn’t discredit Farmington’s efforts, he was disappointed of his team’s performance.

“Farmington is a scrappy team and they came to play,” Kochevar said. “We can play a lot better; I’ve seen our team play a lot better.”

Friday night’s matchup featured the defenses in the first period. The Lakeville North Panthers forced the puck early on the Farmington net and forced the goaltender to sprawl out on several occasions to keep the puck out of the crease.

On the back-end of the Panther defense, sisters Taylor and Maggie Flaherty combatted the speed of the Tigers, who often raced down the ice to the Lakeville North goal. As they denied Farmington scoring opportunities and shots on net, the Flaherty sisters enjoyed being able to play alongside one another.

“Who wouldn’t want to play with their sibling,” Taylor Flaherty said. “I love playing with Maggie. She has great hockey sense, which is obviously very valuable.”

When she wasn’t busy stopping the Tigers offense, Taylor Flaherty led the Panther offensive attack.

After a Farmington player went to the box not even a minute into the second period, Flaherty capitalized. Senior Riley Tousignant hit Flaherty at the point and the senior defenseman buried the puck for the score.

“I decided to walk past the ‘D’ and go to the net, because that’s my first [thought],” Flaherty said. “I just went to the net and shot.”

While Flaherty’s plan was simple, the Tigers never found an answer. Farmington decreased the deficit to 2-1 seven minutes into the third period. But seven minutes after the Tiger goal, Flaherty converted once again.

Yet, despite her strong, two-goal performance, Flaherty wasn’t happy with her overall game. The  future University of North Dakota skater spent eight minutes in the penalty box Friday night, which led her to apologize to her teammates after the game.

“I just apologized and said ‘guys I’m sorry about those four penalties’ but they said I made up for it with the two goals,” Flaherty said. “Two goals was a plus considering the four penalties I had.”

With Flaherty’s size and physicality, it isn’t difficult for her to find her way to the box. On occasion, Flaherty will level players smaller than her. But Kochevar gladly accepts having a player such as Flaherty on his squad.

“She is big and she is strong, so she is going to take penalties and that frustrates her,” Kochevar said of Flaherty. “I’m lucky that she’s on our team.”

The Panthers were also lucky to have Kate Winiecki and Morgan Manes on the team as both girls scored goals, and alongside Flaherty, gave North the 4-1 victory.

After a win that Kochevar was disappointed in the overall performance of his team, he hopes the Panthers now understand that this isn’t the same team that finished in the top three in the state the past two seasons.

“We’ve had a nice run here for a lot of years and we can’t just take anybody for granted,” Kochevar said. “They know that now.”