Heading into this week's WiPH Game of the Week, both the Bay Area Ice Bears and Central Wisconsin Storm were missing their top scorers—Mia Dunning and Eden Gruber, respectively—so it was expected that someone else on the teams would have to pick up the slack.
But on Saturday afternoon at Greenheck Fieldhouse, it was Storm sophomores Macy Stepan and Trinity Foster that stepped up, scoring a pair of goals apiece to lead CWS to a 4-1 victory over the Ice Bears.
It took nearly half a period, but the Storm got cranked up, taking a 1-0 lead on a power play goal.
As time wound down to less than 30 seconds on the man advantage, Erin Gruber fired a shot from the right point that was re-directed by Stepan past the right pad of Bay Area goalie Delany Butterfield for the early Storm lead. Foster also earned an assist on the play.
The Storm grabbed a two-goal lead just over three minutes later on Stepan's second goal. The forward was in the right place at the right time, tapping in a rebound from the front to give Storm a 2-0 lead. Kassidy Oliva and Kenna Bailey each earned helpers on the play.
A minute later, Butterfield stopped a point-blank shot to keep the deficit at two, but that would change two minutes later.
Kiley Hahner battled in the left corner, grabbing the loose puck and then curled out the mid-wall and upon seeing a teammate steaming down the slot, sent a pass to the middle. Foster grabbed the pass and fired an on-ice shot that beat the Bay Area netminder for the 3-0 lead. Kayla Piskula was given an assist on the play.
A couple minutes later, Foster popped in a rebound over the goalie to give the home girls a 4-0 lead.
As the period ended, the scoreboard showed an 18-7 shot advantage for the Storm.
"That was one of our better periods of the year," said Storm coach Pete Susens.
When asked about his young players pitching in, Susens stated it was a win-win for players and team. "It's good for them and good for us," said Susens. "It's good for the team."
For Bay Area, not so much.
"We were missing some players and had to change the lines around," said Bay Area coach Brandon Erkkila. "They popped in four quick ones on us, but I'm proud of our girls; they stopped the bleeding and came back from that."
Bay Area came out in the second period with a minute left in a carryover penalty, but was unable to take advantage of the power play. But five minutes later, the guests would get a goal to cut into the home team lead.
Katerina Zrnova scored from the slot to make the score 4-1, this with just over 11 minutes left in the middle period. Tessa Andrews was awarded an assist on the play.
The rest of the period had lots of even-strength back and forth action, but no further scoring ensued. Bay Area arguably won the period, going +1 on goals scored, and holding a 12-7 shot edge.
The Storm almost added to the lead early in the final period, but a 2-on-1 went awry when the shot from the right wing sailed past the right post just 30 seconds in.
Each squad had a power play chance but failed to score in the period as time wound down.
With less than a minute left, the puck squirted out to the Storm defensive zone. Bay Area's Abby Anderson won the race but before she was able to get to the puck at the bottom of the right circle, Storm goalie Chloe Westberg, after hesitating a fraction of a second, poke-checked the puck away from the Bay Area senior before a collision that ended with Anderson crashing into the endboards.
The final score showed 4-1. The shots in the final period were 10-2, in favor of the home team.
The Storm improved to 12-7, with their seventh win in a row. Bay Area dropped to 8-9-3, and have lost their last three, all to Top 10 teams.
Westberg stopped 20 shots for the Storm in earning the win.
"She's been playing real well," said Susens. "She is one of the hardest workers we have."
Butterfield was a tad busier, making 31 stops for Bay Area.