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Pines Too Much For Wisconsin Valley Union

By Bill Berg Jr, WiPH Staff, 01/14/22, 3:15PM CST


The Northland Pines Eagles made the trek down to Stevens Point on Thursday to face the Wisconsin Valley Union Eagles in a good ol' fashioned Eagle-off. 

In the end it was the visiting squad from Eagle River that flew highest and skated away with a 4-1 win.

"We have definitely had some ups and downs this season.  We had our Athletic Director put together a strong schedule. He did a great job getting us a tough schedule to challenge us every game," said Pines coach Jeff Stebbeds. "Even though we knew we would have a smaller team this year, we wanted to push the girls and force them to get better every week"

"That wasn't our best game this season but we're getting better as the season goes on and that's one of the things we as a coaching staff can ask for," said WVU coach Bradley Martinek.

It was a pretty uneventful first period for as both teams felt out the game. Grace Wittkopf opened the scoring for Pines on a great individual effort, and scored on her own rebound.

After a rousing U8 exhibition during the first intermission the teams came back out in the second and picked up up the pace all around.

Pines added two more goals just 18 seconds apart just two minutes into the period.  The first was Wittkopf's second goal of the game. She fired a shot high on the blocker side from the point through traffic. On the ensuing draw Julia Nesbitt and Mallory Schmidt came in on a two-on-two and managed to get an opportune shot and make it a 3-0 lead.

Union narrowed the lead four minutes later on a scrum in front. Kaydence McGregor poked the puck in and tallied her first goal of the season.

Hailey Krznarich picked up the final goal of the game midway through the third period. She got in behind the WVU defense an tipped a Cassidy Sternhagen stop up into the top corner.

"Ashlynn Boxrucker played well last night," said coach Stebbeds. "I think she was happy to see a few less shots in this game.  The last couple games she has had 40+ shots per game."

Despite the fact that the scoresheet shows that shots were even, it never really felt like WVU managed to generated any consistent offense or flow.

"For us to generate more offense, the ladies need to be more consistent. We can't have this rollercoaster of events throughout the game were we're skating really hard for two shifts and then on our next four shifts they're just kind of taking it easy," said coach Martinek.

"Our younger player's need to take away from every game is the physicality aspect of high school hockey, Their getting to the stage in their career were their not just playing against ladies that are maybe a year older than them. Some of these ladies are 4 years older, much more physically fit and aren't afraid to run into another."

One of the most promising younger players for WVU was freshman defender Sophie Saunders. 

"Sophie Saunders is a special athlete and a coaches dream. She's a freshman this year and is one of the most coachable student athlete on the team. Always wanting to learn more about every position and wants to hear from the coaching staff what she did wrong so she can learn from it and move on," said coach Martinek. "This is only her second game this season playing on the blue line and the amount of growth from her first game to last nights game is enormous. I expect Sophie to become a leader on our team."

While didn't that magic .900 save percentage that everybody likes to see, Madison Wagner-Durr kept WVU in the game the whole way.

"Madison is our backbone of the team. She's the hardest working player on the team, on and off the ice, leads by example and in her eyes, the glass is always half full with room for potential," said Martinek.

"She's averaging somewhere in the 45 - 50 shots a game. She understands this is just a game and the reason we all started playing this sport is because it's fun and then we grew a love and a passion for it and she brings that kind of mentality to the team. Always smiling and laughing, trying to find the lighter side of things to make someone's day better."

Pines is a small group this year, made even smaller by injuries and illness.

"We were able to run a third line at times.  We are a small team this year, and on top of that we have had lots of injuries and illness that has plagued us all season," said Stebbeds. "Just when we think we are going to get some kids back we lose a couple more.  I am sure teams all over have been dealing with the same things.  Last night was a big help to have enough for a third line to give the girls a breather once in a while."

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