MARSHALL - Coming into the 2013-14 season, the Marshall girls hockey team knew the first stretch would be a challenge.
Four road games against two section opponents and a pair of strong teams stood in front of the Tigers, including Fairmont, Hutchinson, New Ulm and St. Peter/LeSueur-Henderson/Tri-City United.
Though Marshall is 0-3 heading into tonight's matchup with with Bulldogs in LeSueur, head coach Kevin Schroeder is not disappointed.
"We look at the teams in our section and want to improve on where we were last year," said Schroeder. "New Ulm is the top team in our section and we were using that game with them to see where we were at.
"To be down 3-0 going into the third period, we felt pretty good about that, even at 4-1, as a young team, we were encouraged by that game," Schroeder.
New Ulm is ranked No. 19 in Class A and Hutchinson received votes in the first poll, providing a good measure for the Tigers.
"So far, it's been going well. We knew we were going to start off with four tough games, the road warriors to start out the season," said Schroeder. "There are advantages and disadvantages to that. So far, skating with the intensity and skating with teams, we've been right there, except for the third period. It comes down to the conditioning. We will get through that."
Marshall returns a solid group from last season's 9-15-1 squad and is looking to improve on the season.
The Tigers have 10 upperclassmen, including three seniors, that are helping lead a youthful Marshall squad.
"They are really helping the younger kids, which I really like to see," said Schroeder. "They are stepping up and definitely being the leaders of the team, more-so this year. They are helping the younger kids with expectations and what it takes."
Seniors Megan Vogl and Lizzie Archbold, and junior Hanna Peterson captain the Tigers while senior Seirra Wagner will play in net.
A solid junior core of Jessica Blanchard, Alysia Rupp, Miranda Fischer, Sara Antony and Sonia Reynolds are rejoined by a player from their past.
"Teegan Wyffels, who was originally from Marshall, she moved back. She played in Litchfield for four years," Schroeder said. "She's a junior and she's scored a goal in every game we've had. She used to play with the juniors when they were younger. It's good to see her back."
Schroeder is also seeing improvement from some of the underclassmen as well.
"We have a few sophomores who have really matured from last year. Kids are stronger and faster than they were last year," said Schroeder. "On defense, you have Bailey Archbold, who is a sophomore; Morgan Morrill at goalie and Mikenna Radke with more experience and confidence than they had a year ago."
For Schroeder, the one downside to the start of the season has been conditioning.
"We were hoping we would come in the beginning of the year in a little better shape. There's being in shape off the ice, but skating is a whole different thing," Schroeder said. "We didn't have summer ice for the first time in a while. We weren't quite in the shape we wanted to be for the first game, but it will come."
The Tigers start their conference season Tuesday with a home game for the first time this year.
"We have Worthington on Tuesday night," said Schroeder. "If we learn from these tough games at the beginning and take it to our conference play, hopefully at the end of the year we'll be hitting our stride.
Nov. 14: at Fairmont, L, 6-4
Nov. 15: at Hutchinson, L, 7-2
Nov. 19: at New Ulm, L, 8-1
Nov. 20: at St. Peter/LeSueur-Henderson/Tri-City United
Nov. 26: Worthington/Fulda
Nov. 29: Marshall Tournament, vs. Brookings, S.D.
Nov. 30: Marshall Tournament, vs. Watertown, S.D.
Dec. 3: at Luverne
Dec. 7: at LPGE/WDC
Dec. 10: Windom Area
Dec. 14: Willmar
Dec. 17: Luverne
Dec. 30: at Schwan Cup, White Division, vs. Eveleth-Gilbert
Dec. 31: at Schwan Cup, White Division, vs. TBD
Jan. 1: at Schwan Cup, White Division, vs. TBD
Jan. 2: Morris/Benson Area
Jan. 4: LPGE/WDC
Jan. 7: at Worthington/Fulda
Jan. 9: New Ulm
Jan. 13: at Windom Area
Jan. 16: Fairmont
Jan. 18: Hutchinson
Jan. 28: at Morris/Benson Area
Feb. 1: at Litchfield-Dassel-Cokato