Western hockey player Smith enjoys new sport | Local sports

Being a goaltender wasn’t really on Alayna Smith’s radar until about four months ago.

She was happy to be an athlete in two sports – volleyball and track and field.

However, when a friend on Mankato West / St. The Clair / Mankato Loyola girls’ hockey team told her that the team needed a goalie, she figured she would give it a try despite having no experience in sports or skating.

“There were enough skaters, they needed a goalie,” said Smith, a freshman.

The Scarlets fell to Windom 8-5 in a non-conference game on Tuesday at the All Seasons Arena, but despite the result, Smith and other players new to the sport continue to improve. The Scarlets started the season with 28 players, 14 of whom had never played.

“I think we are making progress in the right direction,” said Scarlets coach Shaun Reddy. “Sometimes we welcome a few more girls into the roster here… goalkeepers have come a long way. “

Smith made the decision to play hockey in August knowing there would be tough times learning a new sport at the college level.

But she didn’t let drop goals to bring her down. Instead, she focuses on what she can do to improve herself and enjoyed the challenge.

“The hardest part is figuring out the angles and where I am,” Smith said. “How to move fairly quickly from side to side.”

Reddy said Smith has the ideal demeanor of a goalkeeper because she isn’t fazed when things go wrong.

“She has the right attitude of ‘It happens to me, I’m just going to keep working and getting better.’ It’s really fun to watch, ”said Reddy.

Reddy said many new players seem to enjoy the sport, and the hope is that a majority of them will play again next season.

After two months, it’s safe to say you can count on Smith.

“It’s definitely my favorite sport now,” said Smith. “This is something new and something that I would never have tried myself.”

The Scarlets got off to a great start, quickly gaining a 2-0 lead in the first period thanks to goals from Caitlin Hvinden and Marleigh Jordan.

But Windom scored four straight goals to take a 4-2 lead halfway through the game.

The Scarlets got back on track with a strong streak to end the period, with Brooke Pockrandt reducing the deficit to 4-3 at 10:24 of a second.

“When we drive the puck deep and establish our forward miss, the other teams have a hard time getting the puck out,” said Reddy. “We’re doing a good job of bringing him back to defense, getting the shots back from there and looking for the rebounds.”

The Scarlets stayed in the game until the last four minutes, but the Eagles scored three goals between 1:02 p.m. and 3:46 p.m. of the third period to secure the victory.

Hope Rademaker also scored for West / Loyola / St. Clair, while Hvinden and Jordan each finished with a goal and an assist.

Shots on goal favored the Eagles 23-20.

The Scarlets (3-7) play Tuesday at the Fairmont.

Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @ Dudley7Kevin.

Catherine J. Martinez