The Western Wisconsin Stars play in a WIAA section that is loaded with talented teams. The Stars faced another of those teams Friday, Dec. 29 when they hosted the Hayward co-op team at the Somerset Ice Arena.
The game hinged on a bad-hop goal that Hayward scored with 16 seconds remaining in the first period. The Stars were the better team for long stretches of the second and third periods, but they could never catch the Hurricanes, losing 2-1. Hayward is the defending sectional champion.
The Stars scored their only goal of the game with 6:54 remaining in regulation. Defenseman Ally Dahlberg cut loose with a high shot from the point. Ellie Brice redirected the puck and it caromed past the Hayward goaltender into the upper corner of the net.
Through the remaining time the Stars tried everything they could to get the tying goal, but Hayward wouldn't let the Stars get their offense set up.
Stars coach Bob Huerta said the first period was the team's drawback.
"We were very sloppy with the puck in the first period," Huerta said, saying the team struggled to catch passes. "They started to wake up in the second period and really played well in the third period."
Hayward took a 2-0 lead on a rebound goal 2:17 into the second period. The rest of the second period was played evenly, but a beautiful save by Stars goalie Catherine Magler in the final seconds of the period kept the Stars within striking distance. Hayward's fastest forward skated around two Stars, breaking in alone against Magler. She tried to tuck the puck between Magler's blockers, but Magler made a sweeping save to stop the puck.
The Stars had to do some lineup juggling with Allie Stock out, dealing with a flu bug that's been bouncing around the team. With Stock out of the lineup, the coaches elevated junior Margo Gauper to a more prominent role. Huerta said Gauper performed well in her expanded role. He also said senior Grace Klein played well, "buzzing all around the ice." He said sophomore Mackenzie Mike did a good job of being a physical presence in the corners.
The Stars will be busy this weekend, playing three games in four days. The action starts Friday when the Stars host Viroqua at 7 p.m. at Somerset. The Stars will host Northern Edge at noon on Saturday. The Stars have already defeated Northern Edge once this season, 7-1. That is the seventh straight home game for the Stars. They take to the road on Monday, in a 7 p.m. game at Eau Claire.