East girls hockey looking to make history at state

The Cougars are back in the state tournament for a second consecutive year.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 7:01 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) -This time last year, the Mankato East girls’ hockey team was young and inexperienced going into the state tournament. Fast forward to now, the Cougars are ready to be the first in program history to advance past the first round.

Mankato East returns to Minnesota’s biggest stage with aspirations higher than years past.

“That’s been our goal this whole season to make it to state and win that first game, so we’ll have lots of fire and motivation going into that first game,” said McKenzie Keller, East senior.

The Cougars dominated Hutchinson in the Section 2A championship to punch their ticket to the Class A state tournament in back-to-back seasons.

Last year the black and gold’s state-title hopes ended abruptly when Orono handed them a 7-1 defeat in the opening round.

“Kind of thinking about last year, only two of us were ever at the state tournament before. This year, we have a whole team that’s experienced that, so of course we’re going in with a higher level of confidence, but we’re also going to stay humble and hungry,” said Emmy Schulz, East senior.

This time around, Mankato East will meet second-seeded Proctor/Hermantown who claimed the Section 7A championship.

The 20-win Cougars will look to their stout goaltending and high-powered offense to lead them to a historic victory.

In net, Goalie of the Year semifinalist Anna Rader is on a three-game shutout streak, while boasting 10 shutouts this season.

On offense, star McKenzie Keller leads the way with 57 points. The senior recently surpassed a rare milestone of 100-career goals.

“As an eighth grader, she was gritty, she was in the corners. She’s really developed into more of a finesse type player and it’s been really fun to watch that growth,” said Amber Prange, East head coach.

The dynamic leader in Keller and the Cougars will drop the puck against the Mirage Wednesday at 11 a.m. inside Xcel Energy Center.