Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nielsen Joins Rivals in Women's 2013 Class

According to USCHO poster "Hux", who maintains the only comprehensive women's commit list out there to the best of my knowledge, Edina High School senior Sarah Nielsen will be Penn State-bound in 2013. While I'm not thrilled about pinning my credibility to something from a message board, given the nature of the "coverage" of women's recruiting, this might be the last anyone hears of it until PSU's signing-period press release. So I'm running with it, and asking for forgiveness in advance if it blows up.

Sarah Nielsen

Edina (MN) High School
Height unknown
Edina, MN
DOB unknown Edina HS page

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM

2009-10  Edina HS               MN-HS  30   13   19   32    6  
2010-11  Edina HS               MN-HS  31   17   33   50   20
2011-12  Edina HS               MN-HS  31   14   30   44   20

The prolific scorer has been one of the offensive leaders for one of the giants of Minnesota hockey for the last three seasons - she was fourth on the team in points as a freshman before jumping to third as a sophomore and first as a junior. Not bad, considering the 2011-2012 version of Edina had commits to New Hampshire (Megan Armstrong), Yale (Ali Austin) and Union (Lizzy Otten and Maddie Dahl...okay, Dahl is a goalie...still).

While it would easy to talk about five-point efforts against overmatched opponents like Eastview and Blake, the more important takeaway from Nielsen's game log is that she consistently produces against top-flight competition and in big games. Through three section playoff games and one state tournament game last year, she had 10 points in the four Edina wins, and never had less than two in any one game. The Hornets' offense ground to a screeching halt at that point in a semifinal loss, although Nielsen did manage three of her team's 19 shots on goal and won 19 of her 27 faceoffs. In the 2011 state tournament, Nielsen had 11 points in 6 games as Edina made the championship game.

In June, she was picked for the Minnesota High School Junior Festival, helping her team to wins in four of its five games.

Here's video of Nielsen calmly depositing a breakaway winner against Warroad on December 4, 2010. Undoubtedly, if Zac Efron saw that, he'd be impressed. While another video out there is labeled "Buzzer beater goal for Edina's Sarah Nielsen," it appears as if it's actually Armstrong scoring the goal with Nielsen winning the draw to make it possible. Faceoffs, of course, are a vital part of the game, and from the available data (the stat is only kept for state tournament games), all indications are that she is an ace on the dot.

Edina's Nielsen (left) and fellow 2013 commit Bowman (right), of Minnetonka, frequently face off in important games.

Connections between recruits are inevitable, especially in tight-knit women's hockey circles and especially when recruiting in the same areas. But Nielsen shares a rather unfortunate - from her point of view, anyway - connection with three current and future Penn Staters, as they've helped to end her last three seasons short of a state title. In the 2011 Minnesota AA championship game, Nielsen assisted on both Edina goals, but she was outdone by fellow 2013 commits Amy Petersen (two goals, one assist, including the late winning tally) and Laura Bowman (two assists) in a 3-2 Minnetonka win. One year later, and one round earlier, PSU freshman Paige Jahnke and her Roseville teammates executed a shut-down defensive effort in a 4-1 defeat of the Hornets. In 2010, Roseville defeated Edina in the state title game, but Jahnke didn't play in that one, according to a box score.

If you can't beat them, join them, as the saying goes. Then again, before joining them, I'm sure Nielsen wouldn't mind finally getting the best of Minnetonka and her two future teammates in a state tournament game as a senior this year.

To be sure though, Nielsen had already joined players like Bowman, Petersen and freshman forward Kendra Rasmussen a while ago in many respects. They're all big-time forwards from the Minnesota high school circuit with big-time numbers. Nielsen, Bowman, Petersen and Jahnke were also all selections to the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last year. Now, they'll team up to form a key part of Penn State's early NCAA teams.

1 comment:

  1. YAY SUPER AWESOME! I will be crossing my fingers.

    Though, admittedly, I wouldn't look at either Yale or Union's women's teams as promising. Combined they had less scoring that any one line at Cornell last year. Yale won a total of 1 game and Union 4. (Union finished with an ECAC best of 11th of 12 for the second time they've been in the of the ECAC time was dead last.) Yale is intermittently okay in women's hockey. Since the 2004-05 season, Yale has made the ECAC playoffs three times, (04-05, 05-06, 06-07) losing in the semis once and the quarterfinals twice. (ECAC playoffs for the women start with the top 8 teams. The bottom four don't get to play.)

    On a slightly unrelated note, I've been looking at who the Cornell women play this season, which gives me slightly more perspective on who some of the PSU women play. The SLU game is going to be tough for them, but if they win, that could be huge. I think the women would definitely be able to beat Union, perhaps even Sweep. The Princeton women are historically pretty good, having made the playoffs as far back as their online record goes (2000-01) even if they only got to the NCAA once. They'll be a good test for them. I think Syracuse could be wins, and Mercyhurst is going to be tough but if they pull off the wins, it'll be amazing.