Through ten periods across two games last season, Wausau West and Eau Claire Memorial skated to a 7-7 tie. If it is anything like last year, it will be a fantastic game as #1 and #2 collide at Marathon Park on Thursday.
Last season the teams met first on Dec. 30. Memorial led the Warriors 3-1 going into the final stanza, but West came back and knotted the game. It was still locked at 3 when the first overtime ended, and the game was scored a tie (per WIAA rules). To determine who advanced in their holiday tournament at the Madison Ice Arena the teams went out for a second overtime and Memorial came away the winner thanks to the stick of Matthew Knapp.
The teams met again in the semi-finals of the State Tournament. This time the Warriors had the 3-1 lead after two periods. Memorial came back to tie the game and force overtime. In the second overtime period West picked up their 4th goal and moved on to the Championship against the University School of Milwaukee.
Now the rivals are meeting two days before Christmas, it is almost a sure thing that the winner will be the new #1 team in the state.
The Old Abes of Eau Claire Memorial bring with them an 8-0 record that includes wins against 2009 State Champion Arrowhead and 2010 State Tournament qualifier Superior. Eau Claire has two solid scoring lines and will skate three lines deep on Thursday in front of an excellent defense and Team Wisconsin's top goalie, Saxton Soley.
For their part the Warriors come in with a 6-0 record that includes a win against 2010 State Champion University School. West's goal scoring is a little more top heavy that Eau Claire's, but like the Old Abes, the Warriors will skate three lines in front of goalies David Knetter and Austin Priebe. Unless weather interrupts their Tuesday game with Mosinee, Knetter will get the start against Memorial.
In their game earlier this year against a skilled, fast Superior team, Eau Claire Memorial used their size advantage to dominate the center of the ice. All 6'4” & 210lbs of Hunter Scott led the Old Abes that day as he earned a hat-trick.
“Eau Claire is big and physical, like usual,” said Warriors coach Pete Susens. “While we may not be as big as Memorial, we are not small. You can't get caught up in the physical part of the game because each team has quality talented player as well.”
Coach Mike Schwengler of Eau Claire Memorial doesn't want Wausau to get a jump on them. “We are hoping to keep the game close. Minimize their offensive chances and try and generate a few ourselves. We rely on hard work, finishing checks, while trying to play good defensively. “
Before they meet on Thursday, the Warriors will be in action Tuesday as they try to get past Mosinee in the Championship of the Wausau area Marathon Cup. Eau Claire will face a test on Tuesday as well with a stop in New Richmond.