Stars use their overtime experience to beat Onalaska, 2-1
With four of their first seven games stretching into overtime, the Western Wisconsin Stars are the resident experts on playing in overtime.
They made that overtime experience pay off last Tuesday. Senior Brie Larkowski stole the puck behind the net, circled to the front of the net and snapped home a shot that gave the Stars a 2-1 win over Onalaska.
Making Larkowski’s goal even more memorable was the fact that it came short-handed. The win raises the Stars’ season record to 4-3-1. It was their first overtime win, with two of the games ending in ties and one in a loss.
Onalaska is the fourth Stars’ opponent ranked among the top 11 teams in the state in the opening girls hockey state rankings of the season. The Stars tied the St. Croix Valley Fusion in overtime, with close losses to Rock County and the University School of Milwaukee, their other state-ranked opponents.
It looked like the Stars might not reach overtime last Tuesday. Onalaska scored late in the first period when the Stars turned over the puck. The score remained 1-0 until the middle of the third period. Stars freshman Sydney Hahn chipped the puck up the right boards. Jade Williams won the race to the puck. She carried into the offensive zone, cutting from her right to her left. She used a backhanded shot to flip the puck over the shoulder of the Onalaska goaltender into the upper corner of the goal.
Both teams finished regulation by playing aggressively and that carried into the overtime, when the Stars were called for a penalty with three minutes left. Stars coach Bob Huerta said the girls weren’t going to back off because of a penalty.
“The girls wanted to go for it, to go for the win,” Huerta said.
During the game, the coaches noticed a pattern in how Onalaska broke the puck out of its zone, camping behind the net with the puck to get organized. The coaches had a forward harass the girl with the puck, and that paid off in the overtime.
Larkowski, the team’s leading scorer, went behind the net and poked the puck free. She quickly took control of the puck and spun to the front of the net where she worked the puck past the Onalaska netminder.
“Brie definitely earned that one,” Huerta said. “She was all by herself.”
The Stars had lost an overtime game the previous Tuesday against Chippewa Falls, giving up a power play goal. In that game, the Stars went into a defensive shell on the penalty kill. This time, they were far more aggressive. Huerta said he’s pleased with the production the team has gotten out of the penalty kill, especially since they’ve had the higher total of penalties in almost every game this season.
Goaltending has also been a solid contributor in the Stars’ strong start to the season. Catherine Magler and Caitlyn Erickson have been splitting time in goal. Magler stopped 22 of the 23 shots she faced against Onalaska.
The schedule has been challenging for the Stars thus far and it gets even tougher this week, with game against three ranked teams left before the Christmas break. It begins when the Stars play the Fusion at River Falls. The Stars will also be on the road next Tuesday, playing at Hayward. The final game before the break will be on Thursday, Dec. 22, when the Stars host Eau Claire-Altoona at the Somerset Ice Arena.