Farmington girls’ hockey by the numbers: 13 year old goalie; four more 8th graders on the roster; 4th trip to state; 1st year coach; 1 shot, 1 goal, 1 shutout. Welcome to Round Two. The Tigers rode a hot goaltender to a 1-0 win over Eagan in the Class 2A quarterfinals Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
“She’s almost stoic out there,” explained first year coach Jon Holmes. “We call it the “Erch-Factor,” because you have an 8th grader and it’s almost like having a solid senior because she doesn’t know. She’s out there like it’s any other game and she stood on her head and played wonderful.”
Jessica Erchul turned away all 35 shots the Wildcats fired at her, including several breakaway attempts, and did it with a straight face…literally.
“People say that I just look so calm out there,” admits Erchul. “But really I’m just shaking. I was nervous, like, a lot. This is probably the biggest game I’ve ever played.”
Make no mistake, she was a big part of the Tigers’ game plan, but a little more offense would have been preferred. Farmington freshman Krystal Baumann scored at 10:45 of the first period on their first shot on goal of the game. And that was all they needed.
“We went in saying that we were going to try and score a couple, so for her to step up and get a shut out in the game, that’s huge,” said Holmes. “We knew it was going to be close. We knew that we had a good 8th grade goalie who wasn’t getting the same type of press as our seniors. But we knew it was going to come down to 1, 2 goals and good goaltending and we ended up on top. It worked out well for us.”
Erchul took over the net-minding duties after the New Year and is 13-1 according to her coach. She’s been taught by a familiar Farmington figure.
“My father is a long time varsity coach in Farmington and he’s the goalie coach and we call him the Doc,” said Holmes. “We let him work with her. I just step back and let her do her thing.”
Erchul added, “We’ve been working on my rebounds and high shots and conditioning, so that’s helped a lot.”
After this round, Holmes said they feel like a team of destiny. “No one expected us to be here in the first place. It was kind of coined as a rebuilding year for us, so for us to come in and win that first game, it’s huge for us.”
Eagan didn’t go down without a fight. The closing seconds seemed to last forever. At least for the coach. “It was the longest ten seconds I’ve had in my coaching career, which hasn’t been too long, so hopefully there’s not too many more [that are] longer than that.”
At least the first round jitters are out of the way, right? Well, not for the goalie. “I’ll still be nervous tomorrow,” admitted Erchul. “Tomorrow is probably going to be a lot tougher than this game.”
The youngster is gaining valuable experience. She’s playing big games, facing a ton of shots, and keeping the media at arms length. Her only smile came when she was asked, “What gets you excited?”
Her answer was simple. “Winning.”
And she’ll have many years of that.