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Western Wisconsin Stars beat Eau Claire in overtime

Junior Bailey Erickson leads a rush up ice for the Stars in their most recent home game.

A bounce finally went the way of the Western Wisconsin Stars and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

A puck glanced off Stars senior Alli Wielinski, into the Eau Claire goal, giving the Stars a 4-3 overtime win at Eau Claire on Monday night.

The win snaps a five-game losing streak for the Stars, who are now 5-8 for the season.

The overtime goal gave Wielinski a hat trick, capping perhaps the most impactful game of her career. Wielinski scored with 45 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. Her first goal came early in the third period, cutting into a 3-1 Eau Claire lead.

The Stars played from behind throughout the game. Eau Claire scored twice in the first period when the Stars weren’t backchecking at their best, according to Coach Emily Dabrowski. The Stars did get one goal in the first period, from senior Ashley Dusek. Dusek carried the puck from end-to-end. When no Eau Claire player tried to bump Dusek off the puck, she skated around the Eau Claire goal, using a wrap-around move to stuff the puck into the corner of the net.

Eau Claire built the lead to 3-1 in the second period, despite the fact that the Stars held a 15-7 shot advantage in the period.

That set the stage for Wielinski’s heroics. She scored her first goal four minutes into the third period off a feed from Bailey Erickson. Her second goal came when she received a pass in the slot. She had time to look up and aim for a corner of the net and she put the puck right where she aimed to tie the game at 3-3.

Her eighth goal of the season was the game-winner. She was stationed at the edge of the goal while the Stars were putting heavy pressure on the Eau Claire netminder. The puck struck Wielinski and bounced into the goal. It took several seconds for the officials to see where the puck had gone, but their signal of a goal started a big celebration for the Stars.

“We needed that one bad. It’s been a rough stretch,” Dabrowski said.

Stars goalie Tina Montpetit played the game with a bad back, but she again was stellar. She stopped 36 of the 39 shots she faced in the game.

This game could also have huge ramifications in WIAA seeding. The Stars are trying to avoid being the eighth seed in the tournament bracket. This win gives the Stars the possibility of moving up to the sixth seed in the bracket. The Stars face Eau Claire again on Feb. 3 and that will be a critical seeding game for both teams.

The Stars are on the road this Friday, playing at Onalaska. Onalaska is led by Theresa Knutson, one of the all-time leading scorers in Wisconsin girls hockey history. The next home date for the Stars is next Tuesday, when they host Hudson.