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Western Wisconsin Stars upset defending state champions

Cassie Gravelle (14) leads a rush up ice with Bailey Erickson on her wing in the Stars’ win over Hayward last week.

After getting outshot 17-2 in the opening period, it would have been easy to write off the Western Wisconsin Stars when they were facing defending WIAA state champion Hayward.

The Stars didn’t give up on themselves.

The girls hockey co-op team based in New Richmond came back with stellar efforts in the second and third periods to upset Hayward, 4-3, at the New Richmond Sports Center last Tuesday.

Stars coach Emily Dabrowski and her team have been victimized by the Hurricanes in recent seasons so they thoroughly enjoyed knocking off the state champions.

“The girls were definitely on Cloud Nine,” Dabrowski said.

Hayward took a 2-0 lead late by scoring 33 seconds apart in the opening period. The Stars got a goal back later when Alli Wielinski redirected a pass from Cassie Gravelle past the Hayward goaltender.

In the second period the Stars outshot and outplayed the Hurricanes. Wielinski scored again 3:43 into the second period, again from being in the right position around the net.

Hayward regained the lead with 3:09 left in the period, but the Stars again answered back. This time it was senior defenseman Ashley Dusek scoring after she carried the puck into the zone and used a power move to skate around a Hayward defender.

The only goal of the third period was produced by Gravelle, whose speed and strong skating ability have added a new dimension to the Stars. Gravelle scored with 7:17 on the clock, on a fluttering shot from the point that the Hayward goalie couldn’t handle.

“It’s been fun to watch,” Dabrowski said of Gravelle’s emergence in her first season with the team. “She’s confident in her skills.”

The Stars were able to overcome their slow start on Tuesday, but they couldn’t on Thursday when they traveled to Siren to face the WSFLG Blizzard.

The Stars gave up three goals in the first period and could never fully dig out from that deficit, losing 5-4. The Stars were again outshot badly in the first period, this time 17-6. The Stars outshot the Blizzard 32-17 in the final two periods. The Stars got goals from Shawnee Gremore, Gabby Kupke, Bailey Erickson and Gravelle in the loss.

The value of having a top quality goalie was never more evident than in the Stars’ 2-1 loss to the St. Croix Valley Fusion on Monday at the New Richmond Sports Center. New Richmond goaltender Tina Montpetit was outstanding between the pipes in the loss, stopping 32 of 34 shots.

“We wouldn’t have been in that game at all,” was Dabrowski’s response to the importance of Montpetit’s play on Monday. Montpetit was at her finest in the first five minutes of the second period. The Stars couldn’t clear the puck out of their defensive zone for nearly five full minutes to start the period and Montpetit stopped several close-range shots in that stretch.

Ironically, the first time the Stars carried the puck into the offensive zone in the second period, they scored. Erickson made a powerful rush to clear the zone and carry the puck deep into the Fusion zone. When the Fusion was able to stop Erickson’s progress, she backhanded a pass across the slot. Emma Lepper was stationed at the far post and she snapped the puck past Fusion goalie Carlie Christensen.

The Fusion scored both its goals later in the second period. Both times, Fusion players were allowed to skate the length of the ice without any attempt to knock them off the puck.

Dabrowski said the Hayward game showed that the Stars have the ability to play with any team, but the team’s pattern of playing one weak period each game is proving costly.

The Stars take a 4-5 record into this Thursday’s game at Woodbury, Minn. They then get an extensive break before resuming their schedule on Saturday, Jan. 4, when they will again play the Fusion.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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