What Avery Lutrzykowski lost in linemates from last year, she gained in opposing defenders marking her this season.

Looking at the numbers she posted it was hard to tell.

The St. Dominic Academy junior forward scored 61 goals and dished out 23 assists for the Saints, despite garnering added attention from opposing teams.

“Obviously, with losing some of the big players, she got a big target on her back, and it didn’t take long for people to realize that,” Saints coach Paul Gosselin said. “But it didn’t stop her. She just became more determined, and it was a lot harder to stop. I think the first couple games, she had a little bit of room because people weren’t realizing it, and once they did they didn’t give her any room. And all that did was make her more determined to succeed, and it did. Obviously it didn’t top her all year. She racked up 61 goals.”

Lutrzykowski scored at a pace of 3.2 goals per game for the Saints, giving them a chance to win every game. For that, she is the 2017-18 Sun Journal All-Region Girls’ Hockey Player of the Year.

“I look back at it and sometimes I think that my coach might have counted wrong because it doesn’t feel like I scored 61 goals this year,” Lutrzykowski said. “I guess it just means that when you love the game so much it flies by. I’m still shocked about it.”

Love is what allowed Lutrzykowski to not let opponents’ lock-down strategies get to her.

“I love the sport of hockey. It’s really, really hard to get me frustrated during hockey games just because I love the sport so much,” Lutrzykowski said. “So there were times that I wished I hadn’t had a couple girls on me a game, but in all reality I was doing what I love, so I never got mad or upset or frustrated with the game.”

Gosselin called Lutrzykowski a “natural scorer” but also a “natural leader.” The second superlative was just as important for the Saints as the first.

“Obviously becoming one of the assistant captains, I think she took that seriously, whether it was locker room talk or getting people prepared for the games. She really honed in on that,” Gosselin said. “She did a lot of lobbying on the part of the seventh and eighth graders who are looking up to them. She didn’t shy away from that. I think she spent a lot of time talking to them as potential future students and players.”

Lutrzykowski was comfortable on a line her first two varsity seasons with teammates she had played with since their U12 days. But this year she had to learn to play with new linemates. She said it made things “a little harder” early in the season, but she soon created chemistry on the ice with her new forward partners.

That might have created other potential scorers for opposing teams to worry about, but they still kept their eyes on Lutrzykowski.

“I think it made me push myself harder to learn different ways to get the puck into the net, and learn different ways to pass the puck and play where players weren’t, so finding space,” Lutrzykowski said. “So I think it made me really kind of get out of my comfort zone, which in all reality does make you a better hockey player in the end.”

The season didn’t end the way the Saints wanted to — Lutrzykowski and her classmates were shut out from a state title for the first time in their high school careers — but she said the team “probably wouldn’t have changed it for anything just because it made us closer with everything that we had dealt with.”

Lutrzykowski also said she had close competition with some of the best players in the state, but those battles only made her “work harder and to try to be better than you were the game before.”

And with a year left in high school, the best may still be yet to come for Lutrzykowski.

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Avery Lutrzykowski of Saint Dominic Academy. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)