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Raider girls' hockey team cools off Fusion, moves into first in BRC

Hudson senior Sydney Squires led a Raider rush up ice in the second period of the Raiders’ Big Rivers Conference game against the St. Croix Valley Fusion last Thursday night in River Falls. Squires scored two goals and assisted on two others in the Raiders’ 4-1 victory. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Bob Burrows)1 / 2
Hudson senior Paige Johnson slips the puck past St. Croix Valley goaltender Carlie Christensen to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead with two seconds remaining in the second period of the Raiders’ Big Rivers Conference clash with the Fusion last Thursday night in River Falls. Hudson scored two more goals in the third period to beat the Fusion, 4-1. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Bob Burrows)2 / 2

Hudson girls’ hockey coach Greg Gamache figured if the Raiders could score that first goal against the fourth-ranked St. Croix Valley Fusion last Thursday they’d have a chance of defeating the defending Big Rivers Conference champions.

It took until early in the second period to get that goal, but it took a goal by Paige Johnson with two seconds remaining in the second period, and a big 5-on-3 penalty kill in the third period to boost the Raiders to a 4-1 victory.

“We thought if we can pop that first goal, maybe we can make them a little uncomfortable,” he said. “But Paige Johnson’s goal was huge.”

After a scoreless first period, the Raiders took a 1-0 lead when Sydney Squires beat Fusion goaltender Carlie Christensen 3 minutes, 52 seconds into the second period assisted by Maddie Misura. Squires had a hand in all four Raiders goals, tallying two herself and assisting on the two others.

St. Croix Valley tied the score on a Tori Forseth goal at the 10:33 mark of the second, and as time ticked off the clock it looked like the teams would go into the locker room knotted at one.

Squires then broke in on a breakaway and was stopped by Christensen, but Johnson was following the play and put home the rebound with two seconds left to give Hudson a 2-1 lead.

“She has been doing that all year,” Gamache said about the play by Johnson. “She has come up big at crucial times.”

A pair of Raider penalties just over one minute apart midway through the third period gave the Fusion a 5-on-3 skater advantage, but the Raider defense stood tall.

“I really felt like the game changed after that,” Gamache said. “At the time it was a 2-1 game and I looked down at Coach (Amanda) Ryder and said if we come out of this tied we’ll be lucky. Julia Joseph came up with some big saves and we came out of it still up by one.”

Squires netted her second goal of the game shortly after, then assisted on a goal by Sara Iacobello in the final minute to seal the 4-1 Raider victory.

Joseph finished with 21 saves as the Raiders outshot St. Croix Valley, 28-22.

Gamache said the Raiders did a good job of maintaining their composure against the Fusion, who have won five of the last six BRC championships and three state championships in the last five years.

“That team really is a class act,” Gamache said about the cooperative team consisting of players from River Falls, Baldwin-Woodville, St. Croix Central, Boyceville and Glenwood City. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for that program.”

The win lifted Hudson into sole possession of first place in the BRC with a league mark of 2-0-0. The Fusion slipped to 1-1-0 in conference play (10-5-1 overall). It’s the first time all season the Fusion have lost by more than two goals. The loss knocked St. Croix Valley down three spots in the state rankings to No. 7 in this week’s poll while Hudson debuted in a tenth place tie with the MSO Icebergs (McFarland/Monona Grove/Stoughton/Oregon).

The Raiders and Fusion will meet again Thursday, Jan. 30, and Gamache said his team will need to be ready for the rematch.

“That’s a great team,” he said. “They’re disciplined and have great coaching and they will come back. They will have a plan for us when they come to our place.”

The night after beating the Fusion the Raiders traveled to Farmington, Minn., and trailed 3-1 with just over two minutes remaining before Farmington netted a pair of empty-net goals to earn a 5-1 victory.

Squires accounted for the lone Raider goal, assisted by Julia Douglas in the first period, to tie the score 1-1.

Gamache said the game was still within reach when the Raiders pulled Joseph in the final minutes to go for the win.

“That’s what this team does.,” he said. “They hang in there, and hang in there, and have a chance to win at the end.”

The loss left Hudson with an overall record of 7-5-2 with three of the losses coming against teams from Minnesota. Gamache said playing quality teams from across the border will only help the Raiders improve.

“That’s part of the process.,” he said. “There’s going to be some growing pains against these Minnesota schools, but you know in the long run it makes us better.”

The Raiders return to BRC action when they travel to Eau Claire to take on the Eau Claire/Altoona Stars (4-8-2, 1-1-0) this Thursday, Jan. 16. Saturday, Jan. 18, they host Marshfield (4-8-0) in their “Facing Off Against Cancer” game at 11 a.m. at Gornick Arena before traveling to New Richmond (5-8-0) to play the Western Wisconsin Stars Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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