A combination of a gung-ho River Falls team, lack of crisp passing and some whistle-happy referees combined to take what had been a close game and turn it into a season-ending blowout for the Raider hockey team.
"Against River Falls we all had a tough night. Give River Falls credit, they made some great plays and I thought Ross Anderson, who had a hat trick, was a force against us," Coach Mike Stoskopf said. When all was said and done, it was another season-ending sectional loss for Hudson, this time by 6-1 at home on Feb. 19.
River Falls led 2-1 early in the second period when people began to be sent to the penalty box, often for small infractions. There were more multiple fouls on a single play called than you'd expect to see.
Hudson was whistled for seven penalties and River Falls two. Local fans started to see part of the bugaboo when it was only halfway through the game, and there had already been several occasions where the ref ordered a substitution on a faceoff -- more than any other time you could recall in the Stoskopf era.
Maybe it was the frustration boiling over, but early in the third period a large brawl broke out, to the point that one player wasn't able to leave the ice under his own power and had to be carted off.
Some Hudson fans, who were in disbelief they weren't coming back to this same ice to face Superior in the finals, even suggesting that as far as sectionals go, there has been a curse on this team for years.
Others were more cautious about the possibility of River Falls pulling an upset, and just wanted to get over this hump.
The Raiders, again, had chances early, including one shot that hit BOTH the side pipe and then the top bar, before clanking harmlessly away.
"I have empathy for all our players who played so hard all season," Stoskopf said. "Not many things went our way against River Falls, but we still had a good season and had a lot of fun."
Hudson's one goal was scored by Cody Johnson, assisted by Taylor Kolls and Matt Huseboe, at 8:22 into the second period. It came just 20 seconds after a River Falls goal had made it 2-0.
Willie Riedel made 20 saves in net for the Raiders, and the River Falls goalie made 18 saves.
"We had a great group of seniors, Andy Burke, Taylor Kolls, Brantley Grekoff, Danny Boots, Willie Riedel and Matt Huseboe," Stoskopf said. "Over the years, these guys have played a lot of hockey together and have created some great memories."