Marisa Witte, Staff Writer

Coming into the 2022-23 season, the Minnetonka girls hockey team was determined to make this year their best. After losing 4-5 to Andover in the state championship game last year, the girls have worked extremely hard, on and off the ice, to improve their game to earn another trip to the Xcel Energy Center for the state tournament.

Playing signature Skipper-style hockey and the positive team environment is what led them to complete the regular season with success. Ellie Zakrajsheck, ‘25, a forward for the Skippers, explained that the team’s “fun, competitive, and team-focused culture,” helped all of the girls thrive with each other on the rink, resulting in a 26-4 record, as well as Tonka’s 1st Lake Conference title in eight years.

The Skippers were confident going into the section tournament. “We knew that if we worked together that we’d be okay,” Zakrajsheck commented. However things didn’t start off too well for the Skippers, as they got scored on by the eighth seed within thirty seconds of the first game. “It was a nightmare start, but once we got the nerves out, everybody was so amped up,” Minnetonka Girls’ Hockey Head Coach, Tracy Cassano, recalled. After the early setback, the Skippers regained their balance and ended up pulling off a 14-1 win against New Prague. Minnetonka continued their momentum all the way through the section championships, where they beat Holy Family 4-0, achieving their goal of advancing to the State tournament.

At the state tournament, the Skippers “Fought, played their hearts out, and laid it all out on the line,” Coach Cassano expressed. To start off the tournament, the Skippers beat Centennial and Spring Lake Park, which eventually advanced them to the semifinal game against Gentry Academy. In an intense game that went into overtime, Tonka battled but the Gentry Stars scored the game-winning goal. The Skippers then went on to play Edina for third place, and just barely fell behind, ultimately finishing 4th place in the state. “It definitely didn’t end the way that anybody had scripted… but I told the kids that one loss at the end of the year doesn’t erase all the amazing things they did together as a group,” Coach Cassano asserted.

The Skippers already have their sights set on next season.   Zakrajsheck shared, “I’m looking forward to getting back and working with my team already. We’re all super anxious to get back to the rink to achieve our goals… and to outwork every other team and win a state championship,”