Marlin girls look to build upon last season's success

After years of toiling in the bottom half of the standings, the Mitchell Marlins girls hockey team finally broke through with a winning record last season.

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Mitchell Marlins forward Ashley Jones (4) makes a move on Aberdeen's Kaitlyn Holland (20) during a game on Dec. 19, 2016 at the Mitchell Activity Center. (Matt Gade / Republic)

After years of toiling in the bottom half of the standings, the Mitchell Marlins girls hockey team finally broke through with a winning record last season.
Mitchell finished fourth in the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association girls varsity standings, finishing with a record of 11-10-3-1 and even ended Aberdeen's 71-game streak without a loss.
This season, the Marlins hope to continue to build on the foundation started last season and pursue a top-three position in the standings.
"We've got another good group of upperclassmen," Mitchell head coach Jessica Rezac said. "It's a mix of seniors and juniors that are just primed to lead the team. We also return our top-three scorers, so that will help out a lot."
The Marlins' scoring leaders from a year ago are all back, with Kelsey Amick (13 goals and 24 assists), Ashley Jones (28 goals and 10 assists) and Jenna Grosdidier (22 goals and nine assists). Meanwhile, goaltender Katelyn Uithoven also returns after posting after going 11-10-2 last season with a 3.67 goals against average and a .878 save percentage.
Rezac admits that the beginning of every new season brings optimism, but this year has a bit of a different feel after last season.
"I think every year that we start there's a different mix to it because of the new girls, and of course, the girls that have left us," Rezac said. "Of course, having more success last year than previous years has certainly helped the girls and has gotten them up and ready to work hard earlier in the season."
The Marlins have six upperclassmen on the 18-person squad this season, which provides the chance to win games immediately, while simultaneously grooming young talent for the future.
Mitchell has also added a under-14 girls team this year, which could help pay dividends for the program down the line.
"There's something about coming together on a girls team and being able to make that bond earlier really helps keep girls in sports," Rezac said.
Amick burst onto the scene last season, but Grosdidier (64 career points) and Jones (75 career points) both have a wealth of experience under the belts.
While the Marlins averaged 3.7 goals per game last season, they also allowed nearly as many, scoring two more goals than allowed, so defense is an early key.
"We can't win without putting points up, but we're going to have a lot of focus on defense," Rezac said. "As long as we're playing strong and smart back (on defense), those goals will come for us."
Mitchell has a pair of seniors with experience on the blue line in Maggie Dailey and Isabel Bathke, while Grosdidier and Brooke Jarman are projected to rotate between forward and defense to help Uithoven, who has made 67 career starts in goal.
The main goal for the Marlins is to finish in the top-three of the standings, particularly after falling just four points shy of accomplishing that feat last season and then going 1-2 at the state tournament, despite five goals in three games from Jones.
"We just missed it just barely last year and we were only a couple points behind, so I think it's really within reach that we could be in the top three," Rezac said.

Mitchell (1-1) looks for its second consecutive win at Watertown today at 4 p.m. at Maas Arena.

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