Raiders reclaim No. 1 ranking
On the list of season goals for the Raider boys' hockey team, winning the Big Rivers Conference title and earning the No. 1 seed in the sectional are always included.
Check, and check.
Hudson earned at least a share of the BRC championship with back-to-back shutouts over Menomonie and Rice Lake last week and defeated Wausau West, 4-2, last Saturday to leapfrog the Warriors and reclaim the top spot in this week's Wisconsin Prep Hockey state rankings with a record of 18-2-1.
The Raiders 3-0 week was enough to solidify the No. 1 seed and first round bye for the WIAA playoffs that begin next Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Raider head coach Brooks Lockwood said it was good to earn a share of the conference title and a No. 1 seed, but there is still plenty of work to do.
"Every year those are two of the goals on the list," he said. "But every game we have to get better and be playing our best at the end."
Hudson claimed the BRC title outright with a 4-2 victory over Eau Claire Memorial this past Tuesday, Feb. 7. They will finish the regular season with a road trip across the state at seventh-ranked Neenah Friday, Feb. 10, and at Green Bay Notre Dame Saturday, Feb. 11. The Raiders will host either eighth-seeded Amery or No. 9 Grantsburg in a WIAA regional final at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16.
Last Saturday the Raiders used two shorthanded goals by Aaron Grounds, a goal and two assists by Chase Blackmun and a season-high 24 saves by Anthony Howard to post a 4-2 victory over then top-ranked Wausau West at Gornick Arena.
"Glad to get the win, but structurally it probably wasn't our best game," Lockwood said. "There are some things that we need to work on that they exposed a little bit. We won, but they controlled the majority of play at times. We probably got more 'Grade A' opportunities, but they exposed some things."
Blackmun put the Raiders on the board first with a shot from the left point through traffic at the 3:15 mark of the opening period.
Shortly after Hudson was whistled for its second penalty, Grounds and Grady Gornick broke free for a 2-on-1 break and Grounds buried a shot from the left circle for a 2-0 lead. Tanner Gornick picked up an assist on the play.
Grounds scored his second shorthanded goal 6:14 into the third after taking a long pass from Tanner Gornick for a breakaway with Blackmun also earning an assist. Blackmun fed Isaiah Bewell in the slot three minutes later and Hudson had a 4-0 lead.
Wausau West scored before the end of the period to make it a 4-1 game and got a goal with under six minutes remaining to cut the Raider lead in half, but that's as close as they would get.
"Grounds played great, Howard played great, Chase played great," Lockwood said. "Our big guys stepped up. I don't know if they could say the same things."
Lockwood said Grounds, a junior who has verbally committed to Ohio State University and Blackmun, a senior who has signed a tender to play with the Janesville Jets of the NAHL, are two of the top players in the state.
"Aaron and Chase are two special players," he said. "If you're ever looking for something to do in Hudson, watching those two play hockey is pretty entertaining."
Grounds had a hat trick and two assists in Hudson's 6-0 BRC victory over Menomonie last Tuesday. Grady Gornick added a pair of goals and Jack Flattum scored a goal while Blackmun and Tanner Gornick had two assists each. George Nuutinen and Bennett Schrank also had assists while Henry Baribeau finished with six saves. Hudson outshot Menomonie, 57-6.
Two nights later at Rice Lake, Blackmun had a goal and an assist, Nuutinen, Tanner Gornick, and Cole Danielson each scored a goal, and Baribeau stopped all 18 shots he faced in a 4-0 Raider win. Grounds Flattum and Peyton Hanson picked up one assist each.