The Fox Cities Stars are heading to a Sectional 4 showdown with the top-seeded Warbirds/Beaver Dam Alliance after defeating the University School co-op girls’ hockey team, 6-1.
It was the third game the two teams had played this season. They are both members of the Eastern Shores Conference and played against each other in a regular season conference game then in the conference tournament. The Stars won the first game 6-5 in overtime. They then won the second 4-2. The semi-final game of the WIAA state tournament playoffs at the Tri-County Ice Arena in Neenah on Tuesday, February 19th was the third.
Speaking about Tuesday’s loss, Dan Carey, USM’s head coach, said, “Clearly, we got beat by a better team. Unfortunately, we came up on the wrong side tonight. I thought we competed hard and had a few chances to stay in it, but we just couldn't generate much offense.”
As Carey noted, the Wildcats could not generate goals. The shot totals were nearly equal, 21 taken by the Stars and 19 taken by the Wildcats. The Stars were able to put six of their shots past Sami Stommel, USM’s goaltender, while the Wildcats managed to get just one past Hattie Berndt, who served in the net for the home team.
The action in the first period was fast-paced and went back and forth. Both the Stars, who were seeded second in the sectional, and the Wildcats, who were seeded third, took five shots.
The Stars finally made one count late in the first period. From a center ice faceoff near the Stars’ blue line the draw went to defenseman Morgan Treml. She sent a D-to-D pass to Tori Nelson. Nelson saw Maddy Jablonski speeding toward the Wildcats’ blue line and zipped a pass past two defenders to her. Jablonski raced past a defenseman and finished the breakaway by deking Stommel and tucking the puck under her at 11:32.
The Stars scored their second goal just 24 seconds into the second period. Off the center ice faceoff, the Stars dumped the puck into the Wildcats’ zone. Nelson won a battle for the puck behind the Wildcats’ net and chipped it to Alaina Schauf. She turned and passed it out to the blue line to McKayla Zillisch. Zillisch buzzed a low shot into the net for what would be the game winning goal.
The Wildcats kept the game close by scoring the next goal. Hannah Neudorfer passed the puck to Kinzie Youngblood who was speeding along the left boards in center ice. Youngblood skated it across the Stars’ line. As a defenseman stepped to stop her, Youngblood dropped a pass to Gaby Turer. Turer moved into the slot and fired a shot past Berndt at 4:24.
The goal raised the spirits of the Wildcats, and they and the Stars played competitive hockey for the rest of the period. But the Stars stunned their visitors late in the period. The Wildcats had a power play. As they attempted to get the puck deep into the Stars’ end, Treml snared the uncontrolled puck and whipped it into center ice to Jablonski. Jablonski turned, and stickhandled past the lone Wildcat still in the middle zone. Jablonski went in on another breakaway and scored at 15:05.
The Stars scored three unanswered goals in the final period to secure their win. Zillisch scored her second goal on a breakaway off a pass from Schauf at 5:28.
At 13:30 Schauf scored her own goal. Jablonski knocked the puck to the sideboards in the Wildcats zone. Annika Horman rushed to it, turned and whipped a pass to Schauf who was in the low slot. Schauf went to a knee to shoot but made the shot good.
The Stars scored their final goal while on a power play in the final two minutes of the match. Kourtney Koster scored it and Sarah Marvin was credited with the assist at 15:07.
Dejected after the game, Carey summed things up, “And with that, our season comes to an end. The coaches and I are proud of our girls for their commitment to the program and the way they handled themselves. To our seniors, I say ‘thank you for all you have done for our program. You will be missed.’"
Two of those seniors, who are also team captains, added their thoughts on the game that concluded their high hockey careers.
Michaela Fritz said, “It was a great season overall, and the past four years playing hockey at USM is an experience I am grateful for and will cherish.”
Jenna Klenz added, “It’s really sad to see our season come to an end, but it was such a wonderful season, and I think we should be proud of everything we did as a team this year. I wish that I had had two more years with this program because the two short years I had will never be enough.“
The loss ended the season for the Wildcats. They finished with a record of 17-9.
The Stars are now 19-4. Fox Cities will play the first-seeded Warbirds in the Sectional 4 Finals of the WIAA state tournament playoffs at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 22nd at the Blue Line Ice Center in Fond du Lac.