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Cougars prepared for state title defense

The Aberdeen Cougars celebrate their final win to cap an undefeated regular season last Sunday at the Odde Ice Center. The Cougars are the top seed in this weekend's state tournament in Watertown. Courtesy photo

The Aberdeen Cougars have been here before – many times as a matter of fact.

The Cougars, the undefeated top seed in this weekend’s State girls’ varsity hockey tournament, are the defending champs and have won six of the past seven state tourney crowns.

“We’ve told the girls all season, it’s nothing new, but any team that plays us is going to show up and give us their best game. I think we’re prepared for that,” said Cougars Coach Shelby Edwards. “It’s awesome to be the number one seed. I’m really proud of them and they’ve put in the hard work, but we still have three games to go, so we can’t show up with the mentality that the trophy is already back in our case before Sunday.”

The Cougars will face the Oahe Capitals tonight in the opening round of the tourney, which runs today through Sunday in Watertown.

Aberdeen’s only loss in the state tournament in the past seven years took place in the championship game in 2019 when they lost to Sioux Falls in overtime. Edwards believes that setback may play a role this weekend.

“Most of the girls on this team were there when we lost in the 2019 game and I think a lot of them still carry that with them,” Edwards said, “hopefully as a motivator, but also as a little bit of fear knowing that you can go in as the best but on any given day anybody can take it away from you, too. You just have to be prepared.”

The Cougars found that out last season, trailing in the semifinals against Mitchell heading into the final period before pulling out a victory.

Edwards said the players are used to having a target on their back. She said mental toughness and focusing on things that are in their control will be key for the Cougars this weekend.

“We’re kind of prepared for anything, but we’re also confident in the fact that what we’ve done all season has gotten us to this point,” Edwards said. “And I think if we play the way that we can, then we’ll come out on top.”

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