Western Wisconsin Stars knock off state's second-ranked team
The element of surprise will no longer be there for the Western Wisconsin Stars.
After stunning the state's second-ranked team, the Hudson Raiders, by a 6-1 score last Thursday, every girls hockey team around the state knows the Stars are going to be a threat this season.
The win over Hudson raises the Stars' record to 4-0. But it also brought a stern warning from Stars coach Bob Huerta.
"They aren't handing out any championships in November, because other teams will gun for you now," Huerta warned his team.
The Stars entered last week as the seventh-ranked team in the state, moving up into the top 10 after their wins over the St. Croix Valley Fusion and Black River Falls (twice) that started the season.
Huerta uses the words of warning, knowing how strong the competition will be in the WIAA sectional tournament bracket in February. Five of the teams that were ranked in the top 10 in the state last week reside in this sectional.
The Stars went into Thursday's game with the plan to strike early and throw the Raiders off their game. Both parts of the plan were executed to perfection. The Stars scored 2 minutes, 34 seconds into the game when freshman Makenzie Weeks was rewarded after excellent work behind the Hudson net in for the goal. The Stars scored again at 3:09, with Ellie Brice scoring off an assist from Erin Huerta. Those goals came on the first two Stars shots of the game.
The Stars were quickly reminded that Hudson is still a top quality team. Hudson got a power play and the Raiders scored at the 4:26 mark. It was game on. Coach Huerta said avoiding penalties was part of the team's game plan. They were only called for one more penalty and it was in the final seconds of the game.
The score remained 2-1 until the opening moments of the second period. Huerta scored 36 seconds into the period, poking in a rebound. Weeks and Brice scored later in the period and Huerta scored again in the third period as the Stars kept the pressure on throughout the game.
Coach Huerta said another branch of the game plan was forcing Hudson to take its shots from the outside. He said the forwards did an excellent job of backchecking, allowing the defensemen to deal with any Raider skating near the net. Goalie Caitlyn Erickson was at the top of her game, stopping 15 of the 16 shots she faced.
The excitement level among the girls shows during practices, according to Coach Huerta.
"They know we have something special going on and they want to be part of it. It's a good group of kids who have the same goal in mind," he said.
The Stars face two games this week. They played their first home game of the season on Tuesday when they defeated Chippewa Falls-Menomonie 8-1 at the Somerset Ice Arena. The Stars will play at Chisago Lakes on Friday.