They announced the All-Conference selections before the Eastern Shores Conference Tournament game for third place on Saturday, February 2nd at the Tri-County Arena in Neenah.
In the game itself, between the Wisconsin Valley Union girls’ hockey team and the University School co-op team, two of the girls selected showed that they did indeed deserve All-Conference honors. WVU’s junior goalie, Pistol Cowden, selected as the second team All-Conference goalie, made 47 saves. But Cowden failed to stop two other shots. Senior Jenna Klenz, chosen as a first team All-Conference defenseman, took both those shots to lead the Wildcats to a 2-1 victory and third place in the conference’s tournament.
The Wildcats were seeking a return to form after a disappointing loss to the Fox Cities Stars in the tournament’s semi-final the night before. The Wildcats performed well Saturday, forechecking fiercely and firing plenty of shots at Cowden, who they knew would be tough. The Wildcats’ also played tough defense, allowing the Eagles to take just 8 shots on their freshman goaltender, Sami Stommel. As a consequence of their efforts at both ends of the ice, the Wildcats outshot the Eagles 14-4 in the first period, 22-4 in the second period, and 13-0 in the third.
The first period was scoreless, as was most of the second. The game was turning into a dual for a shutout by Cowden and Stommel, who was selected as an All-Conference Honorable Mention goalie. But within 22 seconds in the final minutes of the second period, the shutouts were no more.
As the Wildcats forechecked, senior Kinzie Youngblood skated below the goal line and knocked the puck away from an Eagles defenseman. Youngblood pushed it to sophomore Jordan Bonk in the left corner. Bonk wheeled around and passed the puck to Klenz at the left point. Klenz immediately fired a shot as Youngblood moved to screen Cowden. The puck flew past Cowden, clanged off the post, and bounced down into the goal at 13:33.
Klenz said, “When Jordan passed me the puck, I honestly just shot it and wanted to get a shot on net. I was completely surprised when I heard it hit the post on the low far side. It felt really good to have it go in and get us the lead because I think that we needed the momentum.”
The Eagles quickly took some of the momentum back. From the center-ice faceoff, they moved the puck into the Wildcats’ zone and began forechecking themselves. The puck eventually went out to sophomore Paige Bauer at the right point. She passed it across the blue line to her defense partner, senior Alayna Bruneau. Bruneau backhanded the puck toward the net. In the low slot, senior Vivienne Meyer caught the in-coming puck, turned, and took a shot. The puck whizzed into the net at 13:55, evening the score once more.
In the final seconds of the second period, the Eagles were assessed with four minutes of penalty time. The game went into the third period with the Wildcats on the power play, an opportunity of which they took advantage.
Off a face off in the Eagles’ left corner, Bonk got the puck along the boards and passed it to senior Gaby Turer at the near point. Turer and Bonk moved to switch places, then Turer passed the puck back to Bonk at the blue line. Bonk spotted Klenz, who had slipped into the right circle, and passed it there. As the pass came to her, Klenz one-timed a shot that made it past Cowden at 0:31.
Klenz explained, “When Jordan passed to me across, I knew I had to get a shot off quickly because they pressured the points a lot. When I shot, it looked like the goalie had it in her glove, so it was a pleasant surprise when it trickled in.”
The Wildcats made sure to keep their lead this time. They refused to let the Eagles have a chance to tie the score, even after Wisconsin Valley Union pulled Cowden with three minutes left in the game. The Eagles never got a chance to shoot, and the Wildcats held their lead. They returned to Milwaukee with a satisfying victory as a result of their play.
Wisconsin Valley Union is now 8-9-2 and 3-5 in the Eastern Shores Conference. The Eagles play the Northern Edge in a non-conference game at the Waupaca Expo Center at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 5th.
USM is 14-8 and 6-3 in the Eastern Shores Conference. The Wildcats play Onalaska in a non-conference game at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 8th at USM.