Deep in the bowels of the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, one of Wisconsin’s best prep hockey teams of all time waited in a tucked-away locker room, hidden from the noise hovering in the arena above.
Eau Claire Memorial was clinging to a 2-0 lead against Madison Edgewood during the second intermission of the 2008 WIAA state title game. The Old Abes were 17 minutes away from clinching a perfect 26-0 season.
Coach Mike Scwhengler, who had left the state tournament in his previous four trips empty handed, entered. He looked out on a room that included a future Wisconsin Badger and Mr. Hockey award winner, Division III national champions and several other future college and juniors players.
That same nucleus had almost completed the unprecedented undefeated season the year before, only to have its mission derailed in the state semifinals. This time, though, there would be no denying them. Memorial was going to emerge victorious against the Crusaders, and there was really no other possible result. That was Schwengler’s message to the team between periods.