Girls' hockey climbs to top
Hudson was leading the Central Wisconsin Storm, 4-0, with about six minutes remaining last Saturday in Wausau when the Raiders were called for a tripping penalty.
"I asked the girls, 'do you hear that?'" head coach Greg Gamache said about the silence in the Storm's home rink. "And they said, 'what?' And I said 'exactly, we killed their spirit.'"
By that time Anna Wilgren had scored three goals, Sydney Hendricks had one, and Cassie Schultz had stopped everything the Storm had thrown at her. In the end, the Raiders left town with a 4-0 victory in a battle of the top two girls' teams in the state.
The victory was the 12th straight for Hudson and moved them ahead of Central Wisconsin and into the No. 1 spot in the state rankings. It also kept the Raiders unbeaten against Wisconsin opponents while handing the Storm their first loss against a Wisconsin team.
"I think the good thing we have going for us now is, we've taken everything the state has thrown at us and fought our way up to No. 1," Gamache said. "The girls have definitely earned it."
After a 4-5 start with eight of their first nine games against Minnesota foes, the Raiders broke into the state rankings at No. 7 midway through the season. Since then, they have methodically picked off every team ahead of them, culminating with their 12th straight win Saturday over then-No. 1 Central Wisconsin.
The Raiders, who have already clinched the Big Rivers Conference title, will host eighth-ranked St. Croix Valley Fusion at 6 p.m. Thursday at Gornick Arena before wrapping up the regular season Friday, Feb. 10, at fifth-ranked Fond du Lac and Saturday, Feb. 11, at Marshfield.
Last Saturday in Wausau, the Storm outshot the Raiders 10-5 in the first period but Hudson led 1-0 thanks to Wilgren's first goal of the game, assisted by Mallory Thompson.
Despite being outshot, and admittedly outplayed, Gamache said the Raiders never panicked, and eventually, "No. 9 started feeling the love."
No. 9 is Wilgren, who scored her second goal at the 7:22 mark of the second period, assisted by Dani Robson and Angela Huepfel. Hendricks made it a 3-0 game with just under five minutes remaining in the period, assisted by Gretta Mohrland and Katie Meierotto, before Wilgren completed her hat trick with an unassisted power-play goal two minutes into the third period.
Schultz, meanwhile, stopped all 34 shots she faced as the Storm outshot the Raiders, 34-29.
"Cassie had a tremendous game, and our defense did a great job of creating lanes so she could see the puck," Gamache said. "Yes, they were getting shots from the point, and yes they outshot us. But they didn't get a lot of second-chance opportunities and that frustrated them."
Earlier in the week, Wilgren scored five goals as the Raiders wrapped up the BRC title with a 7-1 victory over Chippewa Falls/Menomonie. Quinn Winkoski and Julia Wareham added a goal apiece and Hendricks had two assists while Huepfel, Thompson, Robson, Meierotto and Rose Giblin had one each. Schultz made seven saves as the Raiders outshot the Cardinals by an incredible 77-8.
Hudson received the No. 1 seed and first-round bye for the upcoming WIAA sectional and will host either St. Croix Valley (River Falls/Baldwin-Woodville) or the Western Wisconsin Stars (Somerset/New Richmond) in a sectional semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Gamache said he likes his team's chances in the postseason.
"The girls are really playing at a high level," he said. "They're staying with the game plan, staying coachable and staying humble. That's all you can ask for."