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Mitchell Marlins girls prepare for state title run after strong regular season

Marlins are 16-2 heading into the state tournament and have only lost to No. 1 seed Sioux Falls this season

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Mitchell Marlins' Kelsey Amick races past Huron's Jolie Carrillo with the puck during a game on Feb. 13, 2022 at the Mitchell Activities Center.
Republic file photo

MITCHELL – The Mitchell Marlins girls hockey team is ramping up for the state tournament, entering the first round of the postseason as the No. 2 seed.

The Marlins haven’t entered the state tournament as the No. 3 seed or higher within the last decade and with their best record in years. Mitchell is 16-2 this season, allowing two goals per game while scoring seven goals per contest. In their 16 wins, they’ve won 11 of those matches by a margin of five goals or better.

“We’ve having a very good season. We’re happy with where the team is and we’ve just gotten a lot better compared to where we were at the beginning of the season,” senior forward Kelsey Amick said.

The key to success for the Marlins has been their quick starts, scoring 50 goals in the first period of its 18 games. They've been lead by junior Brooke Jarman, who has 36 goals and 36 assists this season, followed by Kelsey Amick with 30 goals and 28 assists and Brynlee Sabers with 26 goals and 24 assists.

With a high-powered offense, Mitchell has been looking to stay up to speed, since they haven't competed together since their regular season finale on Feb. 13. Some players played the weekend of Feb. 19 in the under-14 state tournament, but because there wasn’t a junior-varsity league this season, most of the roster has only been practicing for the past two weeks. As they do everything they can to stay ready for its first-round matchup against Sioux Center on Mar. 4, the Marlins have been dialed in on conditioning and improving their chemistry.

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“We’ve been working on a lot of motion and skating, trying to keep their game legs underneath them,” Marlins head coach Chris Tronnes said. “We’re practicing a lot of flow stuff these last few days before the state tournament. We’re focusing on passing and getting our timing down with our lines.”

The Marlins started off the season 6-0, outscoring opponents 49-9. Playing their third game in three nights, they finally showed some vulnerability, losing its first game of the season to Sioux Falls by a 5-0 score on Dec. 19.

After that contest, the Marlins didn’t play a game until 11 days later on New Year's Day in Brookings. That was the beginning of the Marlins longest win streak at eight games, before dropping its second contest to Sioux Falls by a score of 6-2 on Jan. 21.

Mitchell has dominated most of the competition outside of Sioux Falls, as only Oahe has come within one goal of beating the Marlins this season. The two losses have come at the hands of Sioux Falls, the No. 1-ranked team entering the state tournament at 18-0. Another team standing in Mitchell’s way is Aberdeen, the reigning state champion that’s won six of the last seven titles.

The Marlins could very likely have to play Aberdeen in the semifinals and Sioux Falls in the championship. Mitchell has taken down the host Cougars twice this season but has not defeated Sioux Falls since 2018.

“Sioux Falls is definitely a good team, they're deep, but for us we just have to play smart,” Tronnes said. “In the two losses, most of the goals we gave up were our errors. We’ve either given the puck away or made a bad pass. I don’t think we’ve made them earn a lot of their goals so hopefully if we see them again, we can play a clean game and not give them many chances.”

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Mitchell Marlins' Samantha Kludt and Mitchell Marlins' Kelsey Amick skate around the rink following a game against Huron in February at the Mitchell Activities Center.
Republic file photo

For the past few years, Mitchell has struggled keeping pace offensively with the Flyers. The last two seasons, the Marlins have been shutout twice by Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls leads the league in goals scored with 139, 11 more than second place Mitchell, and leads the league in fewest goals allowed with 20, or about half as many as the Marlins allowed. Despite the daunting task of trying to beat a team they haven’t defeated in more than four years, Amick feels confident her team can overcome that challenge if presented again.

“They have a really good goalie and they have four solid lines,” Amick said. “They’re just hard to beat because they have so many solid players, but I think we can beat them if we really try. … We’ve really gotten better throughout the year and our last game with them was closer than the last one.”

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Mitchell will open the state tournament playing No. 7 Sioux Center in the first round on Friday in Aberdeen at 12:30 p.m. The Marlins beat Sioux Center on Saturday, Dec. 18 4-1 and beat them again on Saturday, Feb. 12 8-3.

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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