It was a statement game for the University School co-op girls hockey team. The Wildcats affirmed their abilities by defeating Hudson 2-0 in a non-conference game on Saturday, January 26th.
The teams played each other back on January 4th in Milwaukee where the Raiders defeated the Wildcats, 5-2. Things were different this time. Both teams were playing for the first time on the well-maintained ice in the beautiful Hunt Ice Arena on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Furthermore, the Wildcats were seeking redemption for their earlier loss to Hudson, and for a string of recent losses in games they could have won.
Freshman goalie Sami Stommel led the way for the Wildcats to Saturday’s victory. She stopped all 29 shots the Raiders fired at her, allowing her teammates to score and take a victory back to Milwaukee.
Dan Carey, USM’s head coach, said, “This was an important game for us. We have been playing well in a lot of our games lately, but we haven’t done all that was necessary to win. Today we did. We made a few changes and emphasized a few important aspects of our game, and the girls responded. They all played together as a team for every minute of the game and, as a result, they won as a team. Sami Stommel was outstanding in net for us too. Hats off to her for the way she played.
The game was close throughout. Both Stommel and her counterpart, sophomore Amelia Halunen kept it that way by not allowing a goal in all of the first period and all but the final 30 seconds of the second period. Stommel made 15 saves in those two periods, while Halunen made 16 of her 22 total saves in the two periods.
But things suddenly changed at the very end of the second period. Knowing that time was running out, senior defenseman Jenna Klenz intercepted a pass along the sideboards in the Wildcats’ zone then skated the puck toward the Hudson end. She knocked the puck past a defenseman and chased after it. The puck slid to Halunen who swept it into the left corner. But Klenz was flying in like a peregrine falcon after her prey. She won the puck in the corner, and spun out along the boards. From the hash marks, she turned and fired a low shot at the net. Senior Karly Lamoreaux had just jumped the boards on a change and was heading to the net as Klenz fired a low shot that Halunen tried to cover.
Lamoreaux described what happened, “I got into the ice and right away, Jenna had the puck in our offensive zone battling with three players. She made her way out of it. As I was rushing to the net, she spun around and shot. I followed for the rebound and pushed at it until it went in before the whistle. It was very exciting to get the first goal of the game, especially against Hudson.”
The goal at 16:28 gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead heading into the third period. They scored their second goal early in the period while on a power play. As the Wildcats moved the puck around the Raiders’ zone, it went to sophomore Jordan Bonk on the left mid-boards. Bonk saw senior Gaby Turer racing from the near point toward the net. Turer received the pass, but a defender knocked her stick and the puck skittered to Klenz at the center of the blue line. Klenz sizzled a shot past Halunen, who was screened on the play at 2:10 of the third period.
The Raiders seemed stunned, but they kept at it, outshooting the Wildcats 14-4 in the period.
Six of Hudson’s shots in the period came during their final power play. The Wildcats have plagued by penalties lately, and, as a result, their penalty killing has had plenty of practice. It came in handy Saturday. They were assessed five penalties in the game, three in the final period, and one final one with just 2:03 left in the game. The Raiders pulled Halunen for a six skaters to four advantage. They threw everything they had left at Stommel, but she stood like a mountain in defiance of the Raiders’ attempts to climb back into the game.
Commenting on the number of shots Hudson took in those final two minutes, Stommel said, “Way too many! Nearly double, I think.” She paused then added, “Our energy level really helped my performance. It was stressful but I'm glad we came out on top.”
Jennifer DeGeorge, USM’s goalie coach, gave her thoughts on Stommel’s performance, “Sami held onto this win for us, especially in the last few minutes. She was reading and reacting to plays the best I’ve seen her do all season. I’m very proud of her performance this weekend.”
Hudson is now 9-8-2 and 3-1-1 in the Big Rivers Conference. The Raiders’ next game is a conference contest against Chippewa Falls/Menomonie at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 31st at the Hudson Sports and Civic Center in Hudson.
The win improved the Wildcats’ record to 13-7. They also are 5-2 in the Eastern Shores Conference. They play again on Thursday, January 31st in the Eastern Shores Conference Tournament. In the tournament’s opening round at USM at 7:00 that evening, they hope to avenge their earlier loss to the Fox Cities Stars.