The Badgerland Conference Tournament is a high point in the high school hockey season. The playoffs before the playoffs. This year third-seeded Saint Mary’s Springs Academy Ledgers took down the top seed Fond du Lac Cardinals 4-1 to claim the title on Saturday afternoon at the Blue Line Family Ice Center.
It was the third meeting between the squads, each with something besides city bragging rights on the line. The first was the Sturgeon Cup in mid-December, which the Ledgers won 5-4. Next was the championship of the Joe Raymond Tournament over the holiday break, which Springs took 5-3.
“Maybe the third time is the charm,” said Fond du Lac assistant coach Jon Schubert before the game.
It looked like he may have been on to something early on. Even though the majority of the first period was being played in the Cardinals zone, the quick feet of junior goaltender Corbin Guy kept the puck out of the net, denying a couple of point-blank rebound chances by Springs.
Fondy scored first late in the period when Tanner Shultz threw a wrist shot from the point through heavy traffic that eluded Springs freshman netminder Hayden Rising. This was looking like an early lead they could take to the locker room between periods to fire up the team and build momentum for the second.
But with 30 seconds left before the first intermission, Calvin Grass jumped on another rebound at the top of the crease and flipped the puck over Guy to tie the score at one goal each.
Shots in the first period were 13-7 in favor of Springs, who used their quickness and an aggressive forecheck to keep Fondy bottled up in their own end for much of the frame.
The Ledgers were equally as aggressive on the penalty kill. With Fondy on the power play early in the second, Dayne Deanovich picked off an errant pass in the slot and was all alone in front of Guy. Deanovich came in close and shot high to Guy’s glove side, but Corbin stopped it.
Just seconds later Deanovich intercepted another pass in the neutral zone and skated it into the Fondy zone. His wrist shot from the right circle manged to find its way between Guy’s leg pads to give Springs a lead that that they would not relinquish.
The second period ended with Springs up 2-1. Guy stopped seven of the eight shots he saw, while Rising was only called on to make three saves.
Numerous penalties in the third period gave each team power play opportunities. Springs was able to capitalize on one of theirs when Levi Doering fired a perfectly placed wrist shot from the left faceoff dot, just above Guy’s leg pad and just below his blocker.
An empty netter by Mitch Huettl with 19 seconds left sealed the deal for the Ledgers.