With the third-ranked (1A) Wingers facing Farmington and trying to get closer to a Missota Conference title, Vagasky had big kick pads to fill with All-State goalie Ashley Corcoran out with a concussion.
“It was really scary at first because of the conference championship stuff on the line and not wanting to tie with Chaska,” Vagasky said. “It put a lot of pressure on me, but after the first period, I felt a little better. My teammates really gave me a boost of confidence.”
And with Vagasky stopping 19 shots between the pipes, Red Wing is now one game away from securing the final Missota Conference title after a 6-2 victory over the Tigers Thursday in Prairie Island Arena.
In relief of Corcoran this season, Vagasky has proven to be a more-than-capable backup, going 3-1 with 1.50 goals against and a .922 save percentage.
“Anna has really come through for us,” said Wingers defenseman Kayla Oberding. “She’s done so, so good. I think she’s exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
In the opening period, Vagasky, along with the Red Wing defense, limited Farmington to six shots. On the other end of the ice, Nicole Schammel collected a pass from Emily Stegora and sniped the puck into the top corner for a power-play goal at the 6-minute, 26-second mark.
“We won the special teams battle tonight, which was key,” said head coach Scott Haley, who saw his Red Wing lineup go 3-for-6 with the man advantage.
The Wingers’ top line struck again early in the second period when Schammel found Stegora in front of the net for a goal at 2:05. Then 39 seconds later, Schammel raced down the ice on a breakaway and managed to get a solid shot into the net as she fell to the ice to put Red Wing up 3-0.
While the Tigers’ Ellie Moser went to the penalty box for checking, Farmington managed to put a dent into the Wingers’ lead as Madeline Oines fought through a scrum in front of Vagasky to put in a short-handed goal.
But, Red Wing still had the extra skater, and Oberding led the way for another power-play score. As the Wingers put the pressure on Farmington goalie Molly Singewald, the puck slid across the crease to a wide-open Oberding who put it into the net.
“I’ve missed quite a few of those earlier this year, and my coaches have been telling me to keep the skates pointed the right way,” Oberding said. “Tonight, the puck was just going in for me.”
Reagan Haley and Oberding continued the special-teams shooting spree as Haley put in a short-hander, and Oberding popped in another power-play goal for a 6-2 lead after two periods
“Kayla had a really pretty goal there, and we’ve been working on that, getting her stick down and having those opportunities,” Scott Haley said.
Down 5-1 in the second, Farmington’s last goal came unassisted from Moser at 11:06.
With the game firmly in control, the Wingers’ defense helped out Vagasky for another shutout period despite getting outshot 7-3.
“My confidence really went up these last couple games with my teammates at my side,” Vagasky said. “I know they always have my back.”
Scott Haley added, “Anna has done really well. She works hard at practice, she’s at every varsity practice and doesn’t get a lot of the minutes that Ashley does. For her to step up and play the way she has in her four starts is really impressive for a freshman.”
And as Red Wing (16-6, 8-1 Missota) winds down the regular season with games at Owatonna (Jan. 28) and Northfield (Jan. 30), and a final home game versus Tartan (Feb. 3), the Wingers continue to learn how to manage adversity.
“We’ve had a lot of scenarios this year when I think this is going to help us down the road,” Scott Haley said. “The pulled-goalie scenario in Irondale, being down by two against Chaska, and having Ashley out like this, you keep hoping it’s going to eventually pay dividends when we need it.”