Northfield girls hockey team building toward memorable season

Potential breakthrough season for Northfield Girls Hockey

The ingredients are there for Northfield girls hockey to make this a very special season.

A win over Rochester Mayo this week improved the Raiders to 19-0, still standing as the only unbeaten girls hockey team left in the state.

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Senior forward Ayla Puppe’s 47 goals, 34 assists and 81 points make her the statewide leader in all three categories. She and classmate defenseman Grace McCoshen (13g, 21a, 34p) could both wind up as Ms. Hockey nominees at the end of the season.

The two star seniors will be Big Ten rivals in college. McCoshen is committed to Ohio State, Puppe is headed to Minnesota.

Northfield seniors Ayla Puppe (left) and Grace McCoshen (right)

Northfield’s entire senior class has been part of the program’s transition from playing previously in Class A to now competing in Class AA.

The MSHSL cutoff between the two classes for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years is 1,047 students. Northfield’s official enrollment is 1,102, falling just above the A/AA cutoff. That makes them one of the smallest schools – and communities – competing in Class AA.

That smalltown pride (Northfield population: 20,729) is a huge motivator for the Raiders, whose play thus far has them angling toward unprecedented achievements.

The 19-0 record includes wins over teams like Gentry Academy, Rosemount, Orono and Benilde-St Margaret’s. That has the Raiders set up to secure the top seed in the Section 1AA tournament. Should they emerge from that, they’d likely land a seeded spot in the Class AA State Tournament field.

The Raiders have made three previous State appearances (2016, 2017, 2022) but have won just a single game in the main bracket. All three trips, the Raiders position in the bracket sent them head-on into matchups against dynasties.

They lost to Warroad and Blake competing in Class A, then ran into Edina in the AA bracket last year. A 7-0 loss in their AA State Quarterfinal is yet another motivating factor for this year’s squad.

The whole scenario is perfectly familiar to Northfield head coach Paige Haley.

Northfield girls hockey coach Paige Haley (right)

In high school, she was there for heyday of Red Wing girls hockey. She was part of the Wingers’ run of five straight State Tournament appearances, was also a Ms. Hockey finalist and also played elite-level college hockey, winning two NCAA Championships with the Gophers.

Current Northfield girls hockey coach Paige Haley poses with the Section Championship trophy as a member of the Red Wing girls hockey team in 2013

The Raiders have six regular season games remaining. They’re one win from matching the program’s single-season win record.

That would be the one of what they hope to be several massive accomplishments between now and the end of what might be a very memorable season.