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After big upset, Marlins hitting their stride

At the beginning of the season, Mitchell Marlin girls hockey head coach Jessica Rezac knew she had an experienced team. The first-year head coach said she believed her team could take down any team in the state.

On Sunday, the Marlins proved Rezac right.

Mitchell knocked off three-time defending state champion Aberdeen 4-2 in Aberdeen. The win snapped a 59-game league winning streak for the Cougars, who last loss to Brookings 3-2 on Feb. 22, 2015.

"The girls came together and played as a team," Rezac said about Sunday's game. "We had a few changes with our lines and it got a different chemistry going. They really stepped up."

Despite being outshot 48-17, the Marlins found a way to pull off the upset. Ashley Jones led the way, scoring three goals, and Kelsey Amick added another goal. Mitchell converted on one of its three power-play opportunities, while Aberdeen went 0-3 on power plays with Marlin goalie Katelyn Uithoven making 46 saves.

Uithoven, a junior and an all-state selection last year, has recorded 542 saves on 617 shots on goal this season in 19 games played. Jones leads the team with 23 goals scored, while Amick leads the team with 22 assists and 12 goals. Jenna Grosdidier has scored 22 goals and has eight assists.

"Jones has been scoring quite a bit for us but we also have Amick leading in assists," Rezac said. "We have Jenna Grosdidier and our seniors Ashley Zimmer, Kyla Konfrst, Adrionna Long, Shannen Koch, who are all leading the team as well."

Rezac was an assistant coach when many of the current Marlin players won a junior varsity state title in 2015. It was the girls JV program's first state championship.

While Aberdeen (19-1-1) is still the front-runner for a fourth straight state championship, the Marlins have their eyes on playing their best when it matters the most. Mitchell (10-7-2) is fourth in the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association standings, behind third place Brookings (12-7-0) and second place Sioux Falls (16-3-1).

With regular season wins over Sioux Falls and Aberdeen, Rezac said the team knows what it takes to win. The girls varsity state tournament is set for March 2-4 in Huron.

"Whenever they work together, they can beat any team in the state," Rezac said. "We really have to buckle down and work hard at practice. We just have to keep coming together as a team."

Mitchell wraps up the regular season by hosting Omaha (Neb.) at 11 a.m. Sunday in Mitchell.