The secret might now be out on the Northfield girls hockey team.
For the third straight time this season, the Raiders rallied from an early deficit to defeat a ranked team.
Thursday night’s comeback at the Northfield Ice Arena was the most impressive, given the fact Northfield (3-0) came back from a two-goal disadvantage to win 4-2 against Class AA No. 11 Lakeville South (0-1), the prohibitive favorite to win the Section 1AA title.
“I think they just look down at us and don’t think we can compete with them,” Northfield sophomore defender Grace McCoshen said. “We obviously can and we showed that tonight.”
The win was the second in the last three tries for the Raiders against the Cougars, and all but guarantees there will be no chance of Lakeville South overlooking Northfield should the two teams meet again in the Section 1AA playoffs.
The same goes for any team left on a jam-packed non-conference schedule, no matter what the scoreline might read throughout the night.
“We don’t give up,” Northfield coach Paige Haley said. “We take it period by period and there might be a period we lose, but we just reassess, figure out what we need to change, change it and clearly they listen and they do it.”
For the first 17 minutes, Lakeville South looked like the favorite with multiple future Division I skaters. The Cougars coaxed the Raiders into committing four first-period penalties and capitalized with a pair of goals to snag a 2-0 advantage at the first intermission.
In the opening stages of the second period, it appeared as if that status quo might hold. Then, Northfield senior defender Cambria Monson located junior forward Emerson Garlie for a long stretch pass.
Garlie received the puck and barreled into the Lakeville South goalie as the puck crossed the line to trim the deficit to 2-1 7 minutes, 55 seconds into the second period.
“It made us realize that we can do this,” sophomore forward Ayla Puppe said.
That newfound belief resonated on Puppe’s stick. With 6:38 left in the second period, Puppe tied the game 2-2 on the power play thanks to an assist from Monson.
With 1:13 left in the second period, her off-balance wrist shot rocketed into the goal to provide the Raiders a 3-2 lead entering the second intermission against the shellshocked Cougars.
“I think we changed our attitude,” Puppe said. “I think we went into the game almost nervous, and then the second period came and we knew we could skate with them.”
Northfield added its third power play goal of the night 5:56 into the third period when McCoshen glided nearly the length of the ice down the side boards, cut in past a defender and eventually stuffed in her own rebound to provide the Raiders with a 4-2 lead.
“You got that on the rebound, didn’t you?” Puppe asked McCoshen after the game with equal amounts of admiration and disbelief.
McCoshen added: “(Assistant coach) Scott Haley always told me to go to the net no matter what. I saw no one going with me, so I just went and didn’t care. Just went hard.”
That was more than enough cushion for senior goalie Maggie Malecha, who stopped 31 of 33 Lakeville South shots, including 15 saves in the first period to limit the damage to two goals allowed.
Outside of a few close-range saves — including a breakaway stop that directly preceded Puppe’s game-tying goal — Malecha wasn’t needed for nearly as many highlight reel stops in the second and third periods.
That’s because, largely, the Raiders proved they’re more than capable of playing an equal game against the Cougars.
“We’ve always known we can skate with a team like that,” Paige Haley said. “We have in the last few years, but it’s nice to be on the other side of it to solidify we can pull that off and that we’re good enough to do that.”