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Chippewa Falls stays unbeaten in Big Rivers

By Bob Bradovich, The Voice, 02/21/24, 7:15AM CST


Chippewa Falls remains unbeaten in 2024, and in doing so, the Cardinals will play for a WIAA Division 1 Sectional Final.

Chi-Hi, the top seed in Sectional 1, skated past 4th-seeded Eau Claire Memorial, 3-0, in a sectional semifinal at a jam-packed Chippewa Ice Arena Tuesday night.

“It was a hard-fought game, I didn’t think either team found their niche all game long,” said veteran Chippewa Falls head coach Scott Parker, “but I’m happy for my team, we’re moving on.”

Senior forward Jackson Hoem put the game away for Chippewa Falls with a pair of third period goals.  At the 2:54 mark of the third, Hoem snapped a wrist shot from the right side of the slot that beat Old Abes goalie Nick Madsen.  Mason Johnson & Drew Bowe got the assists, as the Cards did a nice job of winning a few puck battles and cycling the puck out front to Hoem.

“We just wanted to stay positive,” Hoem said about his team’s mindset entering the third period, “no mess-ups, and maybe put more pucks in the net.”

Hoem did just that again at the 15:59 mark of the final period, after Memorial had pulled goalie Evan Madsen for an extra attacker.  Drew Bowe poked the puck free at his own blue line, and fed Hoem for the empty-netter that capped off the scoring.

Chippewa Falls opened the scoring at the 9:55 into the first period, when a shot from Carter Bowe eluded the Abes goalie, with Bret Carlson picking up the lone assist.  The first half of the opening period was very even, but a penalty on Old Abes forward Nolan Ottum for goalie interference seemed to shift momentum toward the Cardinals, who finished with a 13-6 advantage in shots on goal during the opening frame.

Memorial came out with a ton of energy in the second period, and generated several quality scoring chances, including a Blake Ahneman wrister off a nice feed from Matt Wanke that rang off the post.  Later in the second, Chippewa Falls goalie Mick Marlow denied Memorial’s Nick Madsen on a wraparound attempt.

The physical play picked up in the second, with Chi-Hi’s Gus Thorp getting into a skirmish right in front of the Old Abes bench.  Thorp picked up a double minor for roughing while Memorial’s Ottum got a minor for roughing, but the Cards kept the Abes off the scoreboard on the ensuing power play.

Memorial made another push after Chippewa Falls scored its second goal of the game.  Ottum and Ahneman came in two-on-one, but Marlow made a stop on Ottum’s shot before Ahneman pushed the rebound just wide.  Later, after a turnover in the Chi-Hi zone, Mack Diggins had a golden opportunity from the slot, but his shot went wide of the net. 

Marlow was steady all night in the nets for Chippewa Falls, making 19 saves in recording his second shutout of the postseason.

“Yeah, there were a couple close calls but I mean, it was a great atmosphere,” said the senior goalie, “great last home game.”

Eau Claire Memorial ends its season with a stellar record of 20-6-0, with three of those losses coming to Chippewa Falls.  The Old Abes will say goodbye to a solid senior class of forwards Ottum, Noah Kircher, Tygen Kuhnert, and Will Savaloja, defensemen Dylan Byrne and Trevor Kircher, along with goalie Brecken Hagen.

Chippewa Falls will get a chance to avenge a regular season defeat vs. Stevens Point, which beat the Cardinals on their home ice, 5-3, back on December 21.

“It’s going to take another effort like tonight,” said Marlow about the upcoming sectional final, “I didn’t play great when we played SPASH the last time, and I’ll have my best game and that’s what’s gonna happen and we’re going to come out with a victory.”

“We’ll have our hand full on Saturday,” said Coach Parker, “we’ll game plan accordingly, we haven’t seen them in two months and they haven’t seen us, so hopefully we’ll play a little better than we did today.”

Chippewa Falls is looking to make its seventh trip to the WIAA State Boys Hockey Tournament, and its second this decade. 

Puck drop for the sectional final in Hudson between Stevens Point and Chippewa Falls is set for 4:00 P.M., Saturday.


WiPH Game Summaries