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Dan Ninham
Special to Indian Country Today

A powerhouse prep hockey program with Indigenous talent on the northern edge of Minnesota is the best in the state.

The Warroad Warriors are the 2022 Minnesota Class 1A girls’ state hockey champions.

And it wasn’t all that close.

The 26-3-1 Warriors outscored opponents 18-1 in three state tournament games. Warroad allowed only 30 goals all season and shutout teams 13 times. On Feb. 26, the team scored four second-period goals to defeat defending champion Proctor/Hermantown, 6-1, in a rematch of a close regular season game. Warroad also defeated Proctor/Hermantown 1-0 on Nov. 13.

Madison Lavergne, Métis, Warroad senior and a forward captain, had a four point performance in the semifinals, and she scored two goals in the championship game that saw the team down 1-0 after one period.

“I started playing hockey because my dad played and I wanted to be just like him,” Lavergne told Indian Country Today. “My future plans are to pursue a career in the health field and play hockey at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.”

“My Native values make me a true leader to my teammates and stand up for what I believe.”

The Warroad Warriors won the 2022 Minnesota Class 1A girls’ state hockey championship at the Xcel Energy Center. (Photo courtesy of Abby Chamernick).

“Senior Captain Madison had a good five year high school career,” said head coach Dave Marvin. “She had a great playoffs for us and was a tremendous emotional leader for our team.”

Also part of Warroad’s hockey program are sisters Katierie and Kaiya Sandy, both from the First Nation Northwest Angle Band 33B. Katierie is a junior defender and younger sister Kaiya is a ninth grade right wing.

Lavergne said her dad is one of her biggest supporters.

“Whenever I have doubted my abilities my dad has always been there to pick me up and tell me how good I can be. After winning a state championship my senior year I looked at my dad and said ‘we did it, we finally did it’ with tears in my eyes.”

Lavergne’s parents are also her mentors “who have brought me everywhere for hockey and have always supported me.”

Katie, Madison, and Rene Lavergne with the first place trophy won by the Warroad Warriors in March 2022. (Photo courtesy of Rene Lavergne)

Madison’s dad, Rene Lavergne, told Indian Country Today about his daughter’s progress to be a state champion.

“When Madison was just a little girl I could tell she wanted to do everything that dad did,” Rene Lavergne said, “she would follow me around and if I was playing hockey she’d pick up a stick and try to emulate me, and if I was playing softball she’d grab a bat and want to hit like me.

“In that period I could tell that she always had a fire inside her to win, she had that unwavering competitiveness. As she grew older and went on to high school she grew more into a leader, she was named captain of the girls varsity volleyball and hockey team her senior year. I think she learned this trait from (her mom) Katie and I.”

Cindy Drost Sandy, Kaiya Sandy, Bill Sandy and Katierie Sandy posing as newly crowned state champions in Minnesota. Katierie and Kaiya play for the Warroad Warriors. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Drost Sandy)

Katierie Sandy grew up with ice skates and a hockey stick.

“I learned how to skate at Rink Rat 19 Hockey Camp in Warroad coached by Gigi Marvin when I was three years old,” Sandy told Indian Country Today. “I played Warroad youth hockey all the way up. I would love to play college hockey somewhere out east.”

She addressed her Native identity by addressing the Seven Grandfather Teachings: “I find many of the traditional teachings of Love, Respect, Humility, Bravery, Honesty, Truth and Wisdom can be applied to the character it takes to be a dedicated athlete and an awesome teammate and these are qualities champions are made of.”

Sandy praised her coaches, who encouraged her to work hard to achieve her goals.

“Katierie was so steady and smart playing and played a key role defensively for us all season,” said coach Dave Marvin.

Katierie and her teammates also have another memory they’ll always carry with them when the coach jumped into the pool at their hotel, in dress clothes, with the team after they won the state championship.

The younger Sandy sister, Kaiya, started playing hockey when she was two years old and also hopes to play college hockey someday. She had a goal and six assists in the state tournament.

“Kaiya really showed what she’s capable of leading our team in playoff scoring,” Marvin said.

Katierie, Grandpa Leslie, and Kaiya Sandy after winning the Section 8 championship game in Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Drost Sandy)

She also has high core values: “I am loyal to my family and work hard every day to make them proud. My teammates are like family to me and I focus on being the best teammate I can be to them.”

The Sandy girls' grandfather, Leslie, 93, played hockey in residential school in Kenora, Ontario. He also saw the girls win the section and state tournament. He told his daughter-in-law Cindy,: “Those girls make me so proud. Such good players, such a great team. Can’t wait for next year!”

“We came home with the 2022 championship and memories that will last a lifetime,” Kaiya Sandy said.

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