The coaches of the Western Wisconsin Stars varsity girls hockey team were pleasantly surprised at how much respect their team received when the WIAA sectional tournament seeding was done on Saturday.

The coaches were ready to do some lobbying on Sunday, worried that they might be given the eighth seed for the fourth straight season. That didn’t happen. The Stars received the sixth seed, but it puts them into a familiar situation for the playoffs.

Hayward was the top seed in the sectional bracket each of the past three years. Hayward is still a powerful team, with a 15-6 record, but the Hurricanes dropped behind Hudson and the St. Croix Valley Fusion to receive the third seed this year. That means the Stars will travel to Hayward for the opening game of the WIAA playoffs for the fourth straight year. That game will be played at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20.

The Stars are taking a new attitude into this year’s playoff game with Hayward. That’s because the Stars, who are 6-12, delivered one of Hayward’s defeats this year. The Stars won on their home ice against the Hurricanes on Dec. 10, 4-3.

“For the first time, we can go up there with a little confidence,” said Stars coach Emily Dabrowski. “It’s still going to be a tough game. But they know if they play their game, they have the opportunity.”

The Stars are coming off a 6-1 loss to Hudson, the top seed in the bracket and the Big Rivers Conference champion. The Stars gave up two goals in the first period to Hudson standout Sydney Squires. It was a big week for Squires, who signed a National Letter of Intent the next morning to play soccer at the University of Minnesota.

Hudson scored the only goal of the second period. The Stars scored the first goal of the third period when Bailey Erickson scored her team-leading 16th goal.

Stars goalie Tina Montpetit played the game with an injured shoulder, but still was able to stop 28 of the 34 shots she faced.

The Stars will play their final home game of the season this Thursday against the Chippewa Falls-Menomonie cooperative team. The Stars finish the regular season on Saturday with a 2 p.m. game at Superior.