Between the posts for the Mandan girls hockey team is an eighth grader: Autumn Sheetz.
The initial season plans for Mandan girls hockey did not include an eighth grader starting at goalie.
“I got told mid-summer that the other goalie had moved,” Sheetz said.
So Autumn was moved up to varsity. Now, she is playing against girls much more talented than she has in her career.
“The speed is a lot faster,” Sheetz said. “The shots are a lot faster and a lot more accurate.”
However, performing up to the skill level required for varsity was just the first hurdle to clear.
“I can’t let players get in my head,” Sheetz said, “because that happens a lot. I just have to be more aware of where I’m at.”
Autumn says during games opponents will talk trash to try and rattle her confidence.
“Players can say something to you when they are skating by like, ‘I’m going to score five-hole on you next time,'” Sheetz said. “You can’t let that get to you because they’ll probably ended up shooting five-hole and scoring.”
And Autumn knows why competitors do it.
“I think they try to intimidate me because I’m short,” Sheetz said. “I’m just a goalie.”
Autumn says her teammates and coaches have been a huge help through her first varsity year and Coach Matt Strinden gave her some encouraging words.
“Keep your head up,” Sheetz said. “Sometimes games don’t go your way and you just have to know to keep your head up.”
Autumn said this season makes her want to play hockey even more. And she wants as much ice time as she can get.