“Bittersweet”: Edina Girls’ Hockey takes home the bronze


Daniel Amborn

Hornet Goalie Uma Corniea makes one of her 27 saves on Gentry Academy in the Edina shutout win.

Mia DiLorenzo and Jane Porter

Entering the tournament as the second seed forced a target on the Edina Girls’ Hockey team, though they were used to the pressure. With a regular season record of 27-3-0, Edina’s technical and skilled reputation made them a fierce challenger. 

Led by head coach Sami Reber—the “winningest coach” in the program’s history—the girls’ third-place result was surprising to both the fans and the competitors. Despite the tournament’s unexpected outcome, Reber’s philosophy of watching “the women grow as individuals” in addition to dynamic players set the tone for an even greater reward.

The team began Thursday’s game by playing their top linemen Ellie Chapman, Jane Kuehl, and Lauren Zawoyski. The first period tested Northfield’s defensive skills—goaltender Maggie Malecha’s relentless performance was an apt match for Edina’s strong offense. Edina’s top line quickly set the tone for the game; Northfield was forced into a defensive position, largely protected by Malecha’s skilled saves. 

Throughout an initially scoreless first period, it appeared as though this standoff would continue—Edina pounded seventeen shots on the goal to no avail.

After Hannah Halverson finally tipped the puck into the net, however, Edina found their groove. Three Hornets scored in the second, allowing the team to walk into the third period with a confidence that led them to an astounding final score of 7-0. Senior captain Vivian Jungels even broke the program’s assist record with 123 career assists, beating Reber’s previous record.

“She didn’t tell me about the assist[s], so it was kind of a secret until I broke it. But I think that just kind of shows her personality and that she’s pushing us to do our best. And she does,” Jungels said.

Friday’s game was a different story. 

Though Edina was seeded second going into the state tournament, the team knew Minnetonka’s third-seed competition would prove difficult to overcome. 

At the start of the game, Minnetonka came out flying. Even on Edina’s power play a few minutes into the period, the Hornets were forced into defense due to Minnetonka’s aggressive playing. The first ten minutes of the game were scoreless—until the Skippers scored a top-shelf goal with six minutes remaining in the period.

The rest of the period left Edina attempting to match Minnetonka’s aggression. After a number of Hornet penalties toward the end, the team knew it was necessary to refocus prior to the second period.

“Sami never allowed us to put our heads down. She was saying the entire time: ‘We’re still in this game. We still have a chance, but we have to get them in right away. There’s no time to wait. So in the third period, we’ve got to put one in right away,’ to try to get us energized in the locker room,’” senior Audrey Keeley said. “We were all ready to go. I don’t think anyone had given up at that point. We still wanted that game.”

Entering the final period with a score of 2-0 in favor of Minnetonka, Edina needed a win. The first five minutes proved to be more of the same: both teams’ goalkeepers Uma Corniea and Sophia Johnson gave stalwart defenses and ensured the score stayed unchanged.

When freshman Tori Anderson broke Johnson’s cover with a rebound goal, it looked like the Hornets’ luck might be changing. Edina’s student section erupted in chants of “she’s a freshman,” and the team was filled with a new sense of excitement. 

However, this excitement turned into penalties. Eventually, Minnetonka opted for a penalty shot in hopes of gaining a two-goal lead, but it was quickly stopped by a poke-check from Corniea. With one minute remaining, Edina pulled Corniea off the ice in favor of another scoring player and made a last-ditch attempt at an offensive strategy.

The game was down to the second as Edina attacked Minnetonka’s net, making four shots on goal during the last minute of the game. Until the horn blew and signified the official conclusion, the Hornets played a relentless final period.

“I’m really proud of the way we battled. I think give us ten more seconds and we’d get another puck in that net,” Reber said.

Edina’s loss was devastating. In the last five years, the team has made it to the state finals each time—four out of five of those games resulted in a Hornet victory.

“We let our emotions fly with this game,” Reber said. “We were just in the locker room, hugging, crying. I’m just extremely proud of this team. They’ve accomplished so much and they’re an extremely special group of seniors.”

On Saturday morning, Edina returned to the Xcel Energy Center for the third-place game against Gentry Academy—Jungels calls the morning “bittersweet.” 

“Well, we all knew that it was going to be the seniors’ last day after the third place. So I really wanted to try and work hard for them and just play my best so we could try and end our season on a win,” freshman Whitney Horton said. 

With this mentality going into their third game, Edina was able to leave it all on the ice. One minute in, Horton scored and acted as the catalyst for the Hornets’ energy surge. 

“I was just really excited,” Horton said. “It was my first goal at the state tournament—I was really happy and wanted to win the game.”

Edina was able to maintain steady control over the puck and clinched the win with a 3-0 score, giving Corniea her final shutout of the season. 

“This year was special,” Corniea said. “We all get along, we’re able to joke around with each other really well, and this year the coaches kind of relaxed a little bit…they just made sure we had a fun time.”

Several players echoed Corniea’s sentiment, noting that Reber’s leadership was a quintessential part of their season’s success. Jungels, Ms. Hockey Award recipient and Metro Player of the Year, credits Reber for much of the team’s success and personal development heading into the final game. 

“She’s a coach, but she’s also a friend and a mentor in our lives,” Jungels said. “She’s somebody that a lot of people look up to and she’s a role model for us…She sets a really good example.”