There were ten Wisconsin Prep Hockey/Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association Top Six polls this season. The Hudson Raiders were ranked number one in all of the, and were unanimous number one in seven of those ten polls, including the final four of the season.
They came into the state tournament as the number one seed and presumptive favorite. They had already beaten Madison Edgewood (7-2), Notre Dame Academy (5-0) and University School of Milwaukee (6-1) by five goals each.
But what we saw in the semi-final between Madison Edgewood and Notre Dame Academy gave us pause. The line of Cody Menzel, JJ Wiebusch, and Aiden Lenz is next level. Rowan White is a fantastic goalie. And lead by Parker Murn, the Crusaders have a strong defensive unit.
Maybe, we thought, the Madison Edgewood Crusaders had what it took to unseat the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that was the Hudson Raiders this season.
But it was not to be so, as a timely goal in the first period, and a relentless attack in the second and third periods led the Raiders to a 6-2 win and back-to-back WIAA Boys Division 1 State Tournament championships.
"I am very proud of our team, especially our seniors," said Raider coach Davis Drewiske. "It’s not easy to go thru an entire season with a target on your back like we had, but we embraced the fact that it’s not suppose to be easy."
"We had a great season and are extremely proud of our group, especially our seniors," said Edgewood coach Pete Rothering.
For the first five minutes of the division 1 championship Saturday afternoon at the Alliant Energy Center, the Crusaders actually dominated the play. They had the Raiders on their heels, both offensively and defensively.
Five minutes into the game the Crusaders lead in shots 6-1, blocking countless Hudson shots, and having two quality scoring chances on Raider goalie Aiden Tepper-Engh. They weren't able to cash in on either and Hudson's defense caught up.
For the last 12 minutes of the first period Edgewood only got two more shots on goal, but they continued to stymie the Raiders offensively, also holding Hudson to just two more shots on goal.
It was the Raiders who got on the board first however. With 20 seconds left on the clock, Matthew Mauer toe dragged around an Edgewood defenseman and drove wide to White's glove side, then he passed across the slot and back to Zach Kochendorfer who had slipped past his man and put the one-timer into the awaiting cage to give Hudson the 1-0 lead going into the intermission.
Hudson dominated the first six minutes of the second period, holding Edgewood to just one shot on goal. The Crusaders however, will still clogging up the defensive zone and limiting Hudson's chances.
On an offensive zone faceoff for Edgewood, Parker Murn received the draw and fired a shot to Tepper-Engh's glove side. He slide over to glove it, but it deflected off one of his defenseman and slipped into the net on his blocker side to tie the game.
Hudson answered back just 19 second later. The Raiders entered the zone on a three-on-two and after passes from Harry Ross and Alex Pottratz, Carson Strapon buried a wrister to make it a 2-1 game.
The lead was short lived however. Just 9 seconds later Cody Menzel beat a Hudson defender and drove the net hard, as he came in he lifted a nifty back hand up and over Tepper-Engh to tie the game at two.
In the span of 28 seconds the teams playing in the state championship game scored three goals, leaving them tied at 2.
The tie would be short lived however. Quality puck movement in the offensive zone between Carter Mears and Brody Deitz left Matthew Mauer alone in the slot and he took advantage to fire an uncontested wrister and put Hudson up 3-2.
The Raiders added their fourth goal a minute and a half later. Carter Mears entered the zone on a two-on-one, and the Raider players weaved at the top of the zone. Mears went to fire a quick snap shot coming out of the weave but he fanned on it and the puck started gliding away. He caught up to and put the shot he wanted into the top of the net to make it 4-2 after two periods of play.
"I thought the first period last night was our best hockey," said Rothering. "Unfortunately we couldn’t grab a lead and eventually when we got down 4-2 Hudson is not a team you want to chase from behind."
While they scored two goals in the period, Edgewood only recorded four shots on goal in the second period.
In the third period, Hudson continued to take command of the game. Max Giblin made it 5-2 at the 3:08 mark with a wrister below White's glove arm. White got a piece of it but it was hard enough to get through and into the net.
Reece Richardson netted Hudson's sixth goal at the 6:47 mark. Brayden Hess brought the puck out from behind the net and White stopped him, but Richardson had a couple whacks at it in front and dragged it around the outstretched leg of White to put it in the net and make it a 6-2 game.
Hudson further clamped down defensively at that point and while Edgewood had two power play chances in the period (briefly overlapping in a 5-on-3), they were only able to put two shots on goal in the frame.
White stopped 18 of 24 in the loss for Edgewood. The loss was only the Crusaders' fourth of the season and the six goals allowed was the most they've allowed since Nov. 26, when they lost to Hudson 7-2 in their season opener.
"Hats off to Edgewood players and coaching staff for playing an outstanding game and having an outstanding season," said Drewiske.
Aiden Tepper-Engh stopped 12 of 14 for Hudson in the win. With the win the Raiders have won four of the last six state titles in either division 1, or the old single division tournaments: 2017, 2018, 2021, and 2022.
"They’re well coached, deep and really good on the back end," said Rothering.
"I’m very proud to be a part of Hudson Hockey," said Drewiske. "And I am so appreciative of the support from my family, our blue line club, our youth association, our administration and the entire town of Hudson."