Girls Hockey: Mandan confident their defense can carry them to a strong finish

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Mandan’s girls hockey team is off to one of its best starts in program history, but the Braves have their eyes set on something bigger.

“We’ve got unfinished business, and so I’m very thankful, and I think that’s something this year that we have that we haven’t is just that confidence that we can do whatever we as a team put together on the ice for 51 minutes,” Braves’ head coach Ben Hertz said.

Confidence is the key for this young Braves’ team, and it’s only gone up in each close game played against some of the best teams in the state.

“We know now we can keep the puck out of the net,” Hertz said. “We’re holding teams pretty low in shots against and goals against, so that’s something we’re going to keep hanging our hat on is playing the defensive side of the ice, and then taking every opportunity we can to go put the puck in the other end.”

A big part of that defense has been senior goalie Jayli Wandler whose stats prove she’s having a top-tier season between the pipes.

“I think the girls have done a good job at keeping the shots to the outside of the net for the most part and they’re just taking away the good scoring opportunities,” Wandler said.

The Braves are also creating more opportunities for themselves, and with a faster team that has more depth, they plan to continue pushing the pace.

“You notice sometimes when you’re playing away that some teams try to get line matchups on you and our third line has skated against some of the better ones in the state and have held their own,” Hertz said.

“It takes a lot of stress off of us as a team knowing that we don’t have to have one-star player,” senior Margaux Kautzmann said. “It’s hard to win games when you only have one person who’s able to make those points.”

The Braves are proving they belong, and they believe they’ll be in the mix for a title at the end of the season.

Mandan returns to the ice against Jamestown on Thursday.

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