For this week’s segment, we feature the Proctor / Hermantown women’s hockey goaltender who feels more confident after helping guide the Mirages to a state championship last season.
PROCTOR, Minn. – Being a goalie wasn’t the first option for Proctor / Hermantown senior Abby Pajari.
“I started when I was, I think, 10 years old. I had been a striker for five years before. One day my dad said we don’t have a goalie for training and I said I would and I said oh it’s kinda fun and I kept playing the goalie goal for the rest of the year then, ”said Pajari.
And then she never looked back. Last season, Pajari split the time in Mirage’s net but really stood out late in the season, making 78 saves in three games at State, including 32 in the State Championship win in overtime. .
“I was super tired of sitting there thinking I don’t know how long I can do this. As soon as we won the second I realized we won at the start there was no click we won in overtime then all of a sudden the tears started to fall on my face and I got chills, ”Pajari said.
“You go back to last year and see what she’s been able to do, turn it on during the playoffs and she’s got the same mentality, she wants to win. And she will do whatever she can to help the team, ”added head coach Emma Stauber.
But now this year, Pajari is the number one goalie for the Mirage, recording almost every minute and respecting a .937 save percentage and a 1.35 goals-against average, marks that rank in the top 10 in the state.
“It’s just a goalie’s dream, you want to play every minute you can play, so it’s really exciting to have that experience. I have gained a lot of confidence in my abilities and in what I can do, ”said Pajari.
“Our first season together, we could really, really see the guardian that she was and now just have that experience that she’s having. This confidence that she has acquired and this leadership role that she has assumed, she understands her position and knows what she brings day after day and she sticks to it. When people ask about her she demands that net and it’s hard for someone to compete with someone who doesn’t want that taken away from her, ”added Stauber.
But it is not without its challenges, as Pajari is only 5’2 ″.
“Use my speed and challenge the shooter and come towards them instead of just sitting there. Like a lot of bigger goalies can sit down and it works pretty well for them, but I have to come out and attack the puck, ”said Pajari.
“She can expose a lot of the net, but she has to close on that. She’s shorter and when she’s trying to see around the screen the top corners are open but most of the time she’s so athletic and nimble that she’ll get that first stop and she’s so quick to the second and the third, especially the backdoor, it saves us time, ”added Stauber.
They’ve also had to adjust to a new set of defenders ahead of them, as the Mirages are a much younger team this year.
“Until this year, three of our defensemen haven’t seen a regular college change and to be comfortable playing they need experience. But knowing that they have Abby to stop any situation where we make a mistake really gives the defense confidence and isn’t afraid to do the same next time or make a better decision next time. It really gives our defense and our attackers in Zone D the confidence we need to play, ”said Stauber.
“One game they were a little shy and then they got more aggressive and stepped up at the right time and helped me so much there. It can make a big difference. Once you can trust yourself, even that little bit of trust makes a huge difference, ”Pajari added.
Despite being a younger team, Pajari’s main goal is to bring them back to the Xcel Energy Center.
“Winning another state championship is the main and fair goal of growing as a player and as a person,” Pajari said.