By Jim Rueda
---- — MANKATO — A fast start in the first two periods and continuous pressure in the offensive zone were keys for the Mankato East/Loyola girls hockey team Tuesday, but in the end, it was the fraternal Paulson twins who carried the day in a 6-1 victory over local rival Mankato West.
Junior forward Kylie Paulson had her first career four-goal game, and Katie Paulson stopped 29 of 30 shots to get the win. Kylie set the tone early, scoring two goals in the first five minutes.
"We wanted to win big tonight," Kylie said. "We wanted to let West know that we came here to compete tonight. That was our goal."
West coach Mike Sipe belives his team got the message. He said falling into a hole right away was one of the keys to the game.
"That was definitely a big difference," he said. "We skated with them OK, but they scored on some rebounds and put a lot of shots on net. They capitalized on their opportunities and we didn't."
After Kylie's two early goals, linemate Bella Davis found the net at the 16:26 mark. That gave East/Loyola a 3-0 advantage going into the first break.
"Our game plan today was to put shots on net," Cougars' coach Nate Fuller said. "Maggie Cusey is a good goalie so we knew we had to take shots and follow them up. We got some goals off rebounds so it worked pretty well."
The second period began almost the same as the first. Just 27 seconds into the frame, Kylie Paulson completed her hat trick with assists from Rebekah Kolstad and Davis. Six minutes later, the Cougars upped the scored to 5-0 when Taylor Kanstrup split the pipes off a pass from Kalli Steinberg.
While East/Loyola was pounding away at the West net, Katie Paulson was stoning the Scarlets on the other end. She stopped all 12 shots in the first period and 9 of 10 in the second. She closed out with eight more saves in the third.
"You always get a little extra excited when you're going against West," Katie said. "I tried not to get too up before the game. We knew if we played our style and kept the pressure on, we would be fine."
West got on the board at the 8:49 mark of the middle frame when Cassie Rigdon snapped in a shot high in the slot. East/Loyola answered with the only third-period goal when Kylie Pauslon scored with assists from Kolstad and Davis again.
Kylie started playing hockey when she was 7, but Katie didn't join the fray until four years later.
"I was about 11 when I started," Katie said. "I was into volleyball for awhile, but Kyle kept pushing me to join the program so eventually I did. I began as a goaltender right away."
Kylie agreed: "She was coming to all the games to watch anyway, and she got along great with all the players. I just told to come on out and be a part of it."
Kylie is glad she successfully persuaded her sister to become a hockey player.
"Playing with her is great." said Kyle. "She's a good player, and we've always been close."
East/Loyola (12-7, 9-3 in Big Nine) finished with 43 shots on net. Kolstad had four assists and Davis had three. Tatum Schulz also had an assist.
West drops to 6-12 and 4-8.