On an evening that was more reminiscent of early March than early January, the Western Wisconsin Stars made the three-hour trip south to take on the Viroqua Blackhawks at the Viroqua Community Arena.
The temperature—which reached into the low 40s during the day—still measured at a relatively balmy 38 degrees at game time as the puck dropped between the two western Wisconsin squads.
Out in the lobby, donations were being taken for the Driftless Area Humane Society to help benefit kitties and puppies that were lodged at the facility. After dropping a few dollars into the donation jar and checking out the pics of the adorable adoptees, the fans filed into the arena to take in the contest between fourth-ranked Western WI (10-2) and Viroqua (6-4).
The Stars, who ranked second in the state in scoring with 62 goals, put four more on the board in a 4-0 blanking of the home squad.
After a few minutes of the Stars taking target practice at Viroqua goalie Abigail Severson, the visitors got in the scoring column with just over ten minutes left. The junior netminder turned away seven shots before letting one get past her.
Ellie Brice grabbed a pass in the neutral zone and skated down the right side before curling into the high slot and zipping a wrister past the blocker of Severson for the 1-0 lead. Mackenzie Weeks earned the helper on the play.
Four minutes later, Sydney Hahn almost made it 2-0 guests, but her crossing attempt was met by a sliding pad save by Severson to keep the game at 1-0.
The Stars had a power play chance, but the Blackhawks—who came into the contest third-best in the state on the PK—turned aside the chance with the help of Severson, who made two stops on the man-disadvantage.
Shots were 20-0 in the first period, with Severson making 19 stops.
The first half of the second period was scoreless, but then it appeared the Viroqua squad, with only 10 skaters, got a bit tired as the talented Stars team scored twice in a span of less than five minutes.
At the midway point in the period, defenseman Bailey Williams grabbed a loose puck at the top of the right circle and skated to the high slot before sending a bar-down laser past the late glove of the Viroqua goalkeeper to make it 2-0 Stars.
With just over three minutes left in the stanza, Hahn did get her goal with her shot from the inside left circle to give the guests a three-goal lead. Ali Stock earned an assist on the scoring play.
Viroqua turned back a power play chance by the Stars that would carry over into the third to keep the contest at 3-0. Shots were 24-2 in the period, with Severson making 22 saves while WWS goalie Caitlyn Erickson did her best to keep awake at the other end, stopping both shots put on her.
The Blackhawks came out in the third with a little more pep, but missed on three power play opportunities, including 19 seconds of 5-on-3 late in the period.
Western WI would get the only tally, coming at the 7:30 mark in the period.
Following up on a rebound of a shot from the left side, Erin Huerta found the puck on her stick and the net wide open, and the twain did meet as the freshman gave the Stars a 4-0 lead, which was how the game would end. Brice and Weeks got helpers on the play.
Shots were 14-4 in the final period of play, with Severson stopping 13 for a game total of 54, while Erickson stopped all four to finish with a half-dozen stops.
Western Wisconsin will take on #3 Eau Claire Area next Monday at Eau Claire Hobbs, while Viroqua will host Chippewa Falls/Menomonie tomorrow afternoon at the VCA.