Northern Star: Abby Pajari
For this week's segment, we feature the goaltender on the Proctor/Hermantown girls hockey team who's feeling more confident after helping guide the Mirage to a state championship last season.
PROCTOR, Minn. – Being a goaltender 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 forward for five years before that. One day my dad was like we don’t have a goalie for practice and I said I’ll do it and I said oh this is kind of fun and I just kept playing goalie for the rest of the year then,” Pajari said.
And then she never looked back. Last season, Pajari split time in the Mirage net but really set herself apart late in the season, making 78 saves in three games at state, including 32 in the state championship overtime win.
“I was super tired sitting there thinking I don’t know how much longer I can do this. Right as soon as we won, the second I realized we won at first it didn’t click that we won in the overtime game and then all of a sudden the tears started running down my face and got the chills,” Pajari said.
“You go back to last year and see what she was able to do, turn it on during playoffs and she’s got that same mentality, she wants to win. And she’s going to do anything she can to help the team,” head coach Emma Stauber added.
But now this year, Pajari is the number one goaltender for the Mirage, logging almost all of the minutes and has complied a .937 saves percentage and a 1.35 goals against average, marks that rank in the top 10 in the state.
“That’s just a goalie’s dream, you want to play all of the minutes you can play so it’s really been exciting to have that experience. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my abilities and what I can do,” Pajari said.
“Our first season together, we really, really could see the goalie that she was and now just having that experience that she has. That confidence that she has gained and that leadership role that she’s taken on, she understands her position and knows what she brings day in and day out and she’s stuck to that. When people ask about her, she demands that net and it’s hard for someone to compete with somebody that doesn’t want that taken from her,” Stauber added.
But that doesn’t come without some challenges, as Pajari is just 5’2″.
“Using my speed and just challenging the shooter and coming out to them instead of just sitting back. Like a lot of bigger goalies can sit back and it works out pretty well for them but I have to get out and attack the puck,” Pajari said.
“She may expose a lot of the net but for her to close on that. She is shorter and when she’s down trying to see around the screen, the top corners are open but a lot of times, she’s so athletic and agile that she’ll get that first save and she’s so quick to the second and third, especially backdoor, she saves us all the time,” Stauber added.
She’s also had to adjust to a new group of defenders in front of her, as the Mirage are a much younger team this year.
“Three of our defense haven’t until this year seen a regular varsity shift and for them to get comfortable playing, they need experience. But knowing that they have Abby to stop any situation where we makes a mistake, really gives those defense confidence and not get scared to make that same thing next time or a better decision next time. It really gives our defense, and our forwards in the D-zone, the confidence that we need them to play,” Stauber said.
“One game they were a little timid and then they became more aggressive and stepped up at the right time and have helped me so much back there. It can make a big difference. Once you can trust each other, even that little bit of trust, just makes a huge difference,” Pajari added.
While it’s a younger team, Pajari’s main goal is getting them back to the Xcel Energy Center.
“To win another state championship, that’s the main goal and just to grow as a player and person too,” Pajari said.