The chance to compete in a conference has the girls on the Western Wisconsin Stars hockey team excited for the 2021-22 season.
The Stars began their season with a pair of wins over Minnesota schools over the weekend, and have three games scheduled this week in a tournament at Baldwin. The Stars will face the St. Croix Valley Fusion at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in what will be the Stars’ first game as a member of the Big Rivers Conference. The Stars will play a team from Green Bay on Friday and they will face Black River Falls on Saturday.
In the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, the Stars amassed a 13-5 record. There will be some differences from last season’s team. Top scorer Ellie Brice graduated and top goaltender Lauren Sobczak moved to Boston. Another difference is the return of senior Makenzie Weeks. She was the team’s leading scorer as a freshman. After being done for two years, she returns to play her senior season with the Stars.
Weeks will be paired on the top line with classmate Erin Huerta. They’ve played together in Somerset since beginning youth hockey together. Huerta is the team’s top returning scorer, finishing with 29 points last season.
Coach Bob Huerta said the Stars will be able to skate three quality forward lines this season, which he views as a big step forward for the team. The two top lines will be a mix of veteran and younger players. Weeks and Huerta will skate on the top line and Alise Wiehl and Bryn Connors will skate on the second line, with younger players being worked in as wingers on both lines.
All four of the team’s top players on defense return. Coach Huerta said all four were new to the team last year and they grew into a strong defensive corps. They will work in front of sophomore goaltender Emaliya Schultz, who was the team’s second goalie last season.
“She’s solid. She did a lot of work in the off-season,” Huerta said.
There are 24 girls on the Stars’ roster this season, meaning the team will also be able to play a junior varsity schedule.
A 2-0 start to the season has the Stars looking forward to their debut in the BRC. The Stars opened the season with a 5-2 win at Pine City, Minn., Friday night, Nov. 19. The Stars sizzled to start the game, building a 4-0 lead in the first period, putting 14 shots on goal. Huerta scored twice, with Wiehl, Weeks and Connors also scoring in the win.
The first game for the Stars was played Saturday at Somerset. The Stars were facing a new opponent, Prairie Center from the St. Cloud area. The new opponent was no challenge, as the Stars held a 54-2 shot advantage in a 7-0 victory.
Weeks, Wiehl and Brooke Olson both scored two goals, with Huerta scoring once.