By Jim Rueda
Free Press Staff Writer
Her college decision has been made and she already holds about all of the team’s most significant individual records.
It figures to be a pressure-free season for senior defender Savannah Quandt. She expects to have a lot of fun but her main goal is to help the Mankato East/Loyola girls hockey team get to the state tournament.
“We have a lot of returning players this year and we’ve been working at getting to state for awhile now,” she said. “For us seniors it’s now or never. We just have to play well and go for it.”
Quandt has verbally committed to attending Minnesota State next fall. She will officially sign her national letter of intent on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
“I’m glad to have that decision behind me,” she said. “Now I can just concentrate on playing hockey.”
Quandt has been a mainstay of the Cougars program for five years. She came up to varsity as a seventh-grader and was the team’s second-leading scorer with 14 goals and 11 assists.
She has led the team in scoring every year since, scoring 13 goals as an eighth-grader, 31 as a freshman, 32 as a sophomore and 32 last season.
“She made a big jump as a freshman but otherwise it’s been kind of gradual improvement with her,” East/Loyola head coach Nate Fuller said. “She’s always been a team-first player. She wants nothing more than to be on the first East/Loyola team to ever make it to state.”
Quandt said her career has gone by quickly. She realizes the 2012-13 season will be bittersweet.
“I’m excited for the season to start but it’s going to be weird because this is the last one,” she said. “We just want to finish on as high a note as possible.”
The Cougars are 33-16-4 over the last two seasons and are poised to make a legitimate run at the Section 2A title. They return 15 letterwinners so there shouldn’t be many growing pains.
“Most of them played summer hockey,” Fuller said. “They’re really focused on doing well this year.
“We’re expecting Katy Snyder to be one of the top defenseman in the Big Nine. And we think Amanda Broman is going to give us a lot of scoring punch.
Among the other top returnees are forward Maddie McCargar and defender Kelsey Ekstedt. The biggest question mark may be at goaltender where Katie Paulson is slated to replace longtime starter Melany Anderson.
Paulson played in only four games last year, finishing with a 0.915 save percentage and a 1.28 goals-against average.
“She doesn’t have a lot of varsity experience but she’s played a lot of hockey,” Fuller said. “We think she’s ready to carry the load.”
Quandt agrees: “We have confidence in Katie — she just has to have confidence in herself. I think she’ll step in and do fine.”
The Cougars open the season Saturday with a nonconference game against Litchfield-Dassel-Cokato. The opening faceoff is 2 p.m. at All Season’s Arena.