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Stars rise after state-ranked losses

Sophomore Kayla Huerta (9) carries the puck out of the defensive zone for the Western Wisconsin Stars in last Tuesday's game against the St. Croix Valley Fusion. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

After facing two of the three top-ranked teams in the state earlier in the week, the Western Wisconsin Stars were able to end a frantic week before Christmas by playing the Black River Falls cooperative team on Saturday, Dec. 23.

The Stars earned a 4-1 win. The game featured some sharp team play from the Stars, along with two superlative efforts from leading scorer Jade Williams that resulted in a pair of goals.

Williams got the Stars headed in the right direction by scoring the only goal of the first period, 30 seconds into the action. The play started with Williams' older sister, chipping the puck up the boards past a BRF defenseman at the point. Jade won a race to the puck at center ice. She transitioned at full speed, racing to the net at full speed. She faked a forehand shot, then pushed a backhanded shot into the vacated side of the net.

The second period was filled with action and missed scoring chances. Both teams created open cracks at the net, but couldn't put away the shots. That changed with 1:23 left in the period. Stars senior Grace Klein scored, after Allie Stock did some excellent forechecking in the corner to create the short-handed scoring chance.

Stars coach Bob Huerta said that type of production is what the team expects from Klein, the team's only senior skater.

"She's the blue collar type. Whenever you need the job done, she gets it done," Huerta said.

The only other senior on the Stars roster is goaltender Catherine Magler, who stopped 25 of 26 shots she faced to get the win.

Black River Falls scored 1:28 into the third period. Williams struck again a minute later to return the lead to two goals. Williams carried the puck up the left side, making a strong 90-degree cut toward the front of the net, where she again beat the BRF goalie. It was Williams' team-leading 13th goal.

"She's definitely a team leader, and not only on the ice," Huerta said of Williams. "You get out what you put into it and she puts everything into it."

The final goal of the game came on a 2-on-1 break involving Stock and Sydney Hahn. Stock carried the puck toward the BRF goal, drawing the attention of the goalie and defenseman. She slid the puck across to Hahn who had an easy shot for the final goal. Huerta said Stock could have taken a shot at the end of the play, but did the unselfish thing and made the pass to Hahn.

The win raised the Stars' record to 5-4-1. It followed tough losses to the state-ranked Eau Claire Area Stars and St. Croix Valley Fusion. The Stars and Fusion played a highly-intense, even game last Tuesday in Somerset. The Stars couldn't get a puck past the Fusion goaltender, losing 3-0.

The Stars had a rough start and couldn't get rolling against Eau Claire on Thursday. Eau Claire scored four times in the first period and WWS never recovered, losing 8-2. Jade Williams and Ellie Brice scored the Stars' goals.

The Stars return to action this Friday, hosting Hayward at 1 p.m. in Somerset.

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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