New look ‘Hawks erase old memories

The last game the North Wright County Riverhawks played came against the same Sartell/Sauk Rapids program they squared off against Friday night.

That last matchup started a long line of losing for the Hawks. First, it was the 6-2 section semifinal upset to SSR. Then, it was dealing with the loss of multiple gifted seniors to graduation. Following that, they lost their head coach to resignation, and three talented underclassmen to transfers.

North Wright County celebrates a first period goal from Rachel Heiber. The Riverhawks cruised past Sartell/Sauk Rapids, 7-0, in the season opener. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

North Wright County celebrates a first period goal from Rachel Heiber. The Riverhawks cruised past Sartell/Sauk Rapids, 7-0, in the season opener. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

Friday provided NWC’s first real chance to stop that losing streak. They took full advantage. The Hawks’ outshot their visitors 29-2 through two periods, on their way to a dominating 7-0 win, erasing any bad memories that may have been left over from last postseason or this offseason.

Tuesday, the Magic traveled to take on the third-ranked team in Class A, South St. Paul. The game provided an opportunity to show that Friday wasn’t a flash in the pan, Again, the Hawks took advantage. NWC knocked off last year’s state runner-up 4-2.

All in all, a pretty good start to the year for Coach Jason Johnson and his Riverhawks.

“I think if you were going to script a start,” said Johnson. “This would be it.”

It all began Friday night, with a dominating first couple of periods. Less than three minutes into the opener, the Hawks took the lead on a Jade Ye goal. It not only gave NWC a 1-0 early lead, but also perhaps was symbolic of a fresh start, as the goal came on Ye’s first career shift and first career shot.

Senior Dani Sibley handles the puck through traffic Friday night. Sibley was one of six NWC players to score in the opener.

Senior Dani Sibley handles the puck through traffic Friday night. Sibley was one of six NWC players to score in the opener.

From there, the home team rolled. Despite coming up empty handed on two power plays, they continued to test Division I-bound goaltender Erin Deters (Bemidji State University). The Hawks took the first 11 shots of the game, many of them good looks.

Finally, with just a few minutes left, they cashed in again. Rachel Heiber handled the puck around the zone before working into the slot and sliding one through a crease in the defense, and across the goal line.

Two more goals in the second were followed by three more goals against the backup goaltender in the third. 7-0, Riverhawks, with goals from six different girls.

“Today was just incredible,” said Heiber, after the game. “So much positive energy. Everybody was all smiles.”

That energy carried over to Tuesday. Despite falling behind 2-0 after one period against South St. Paul, the Hawks kept attacking. The resiliency paid off. Goals from Maddi Sjelin and Dani Sibley tied the game up early in the second period.

Heiber scored the go-ahead goal just five minutes into the third, and Kaleigh Hamman added an insurance goal just a minute later to move the Hawks to 2-0.

“Our goal is to build toward the end of the season,” said Johnson. “This is a step in the right direction.”

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