Girls hockey has high hopes

Two first-year coaches at helm of growing C-ER program


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Chugiak-Eagle River goalie Erica Mercer squares off against Service-East’s Jordaan Russell during C-ER’s 4-2 win on Nov. 4 at Ben Boeke.

STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

Things are looking up for Chugiak-Eagle River girls hockey, said first-year coach Randall Sperry.

With six returners from last year, a few players that took time off and have rejoined the team and a new addition between the pipes, Chugiak-Eagle River is looking to have its best season, Sperry said following a 2-0 season-opening loss to Dimond-West on Nov. 1. With a 4-2 win over Service-East on Nov. 4, the team improved to 1-1. Starting today, they travel north for a three-game series against Fairbanks.

“The overall skill kill level is higher,” he said. “We should be a little deeper than we were last year.

“We want to be competitive with the top teams, and we think we can be,” Sperry said. “We might have a team that can place higher in the playoffs than we ever had.”

Sperry, the Eagle River coach, is joined by first-year Chugiak coach Katie Hulse. A total of 21 make up the roster, Sperry said.

Junior Autumn Sperry is a key offensive returner, coach Sperry said.

“She’s one of the strong returners coming back,” he said.

Junior Holly Linder is another strong offensive skater, coach Sperry said.

“She should add a lot of offensive spark,” he said.

Rachel Russell will don the captain’s “C” this season, coach Sperry said. Russell, who took a couple years off from high school hockey, returned for her senior year, he said.

“We’ve got some really strong players,” coach Sperry said.

Chugiak-Eagle River’s defensive core will be strong thanks to Sam Perez, Kiera Byman and JoEllen Walters, coach Sperry said.

The return of blueliner Morgan Elledge is another bonus to the team, coach Sperry said. Like Russell, Elledge took time off from high school hockey, he said.

“She’ll be one of our solid defenders,” coach Sperry said.

New to the team is senior net minder Nicole Mrugala. Having known her from travel hockey, coach Sperry said Mrugala should be one of the top high school goaltenders.

“She should keep us real competitive when she’s in the net,” he said. “She’s solid.”

Mrugala is recovering from a knee injury and is expected join the team in a month, coach Sperry said.

In addition to loads of experience, Chugiak-Eagle River has a good group of young skaters, coach Sperry said. He said sophomore Hannah Blizzard is one first-year player that will have an impact on the team. Blizzard scored twice in CER’s victory over Service-East. Sperry and Chelsea Walljasper had the other goals.

“It’s a great foundation to build on,” coach Sperry said.

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