The season ended for the Western Wisconsin Stars in an incredible defensive performance, with the Stars and Hayward playing into double overtime before the game was decided.
Hayward scored in the second overtime to defeat the Stars 1-0 in the opening round of the WIAA girls hockey state playoffs. The Stars were the fifth seed and Hayward the fourth seed, so this game was expected to be closely competed.
"It was very intense, physical, it was very defensive," said Stars coach Bob Huerta.
When the Stars played at Hayward five days earlier, the coaches used the game as a scouting mission. The coaches wanted to learn what they could use against Hayward while not giving the Hayward coaches any ammunition to use in this game. The 6-0 loss on Feb. 10 was in essence sacrificed by the Stars coaches so the team would have a better chance to win in this game.
Huerta said the Stars learned from the Feb. 10 game that Hayward wants to do all its scoring from between the circles, so the Stars did their best to force most of Hayward's shots to come from outside the circles.
When Hayward did get shots, Stars senior goaltender Catherine Magler was ready. She stopped the first 29 shots she faced before Hayward scored in the second overtime.
"Catherine made some unbelievable saves," Huerta said. "She had a great career and showed it in this final game."
Magler and Grace Klein are the only seniors on the Stars roster.
Hayward got the deciding goal following a battle for the puck in the corner in the Stars' defensive zone. The Stars' player lost her footing, allowing Hayward to have a two-on-one in front of the net, which was turned into the deciding goal.
Huerta said the Williams sisters, Jade and Bailey, both stood out in this game for the Stars. That might not be coincidence. The Williams sisters are two of the physically strongest girls on the team. Huerta said one of the points of emphasis in preparing for next season is getting the team faster and stronger. He said Hayward was the stronger physical team, adding that all the teams seeded above the Stars in this sectional bracket have excellent strength and speed.
Huerta said discipline was one of the Stars' best assets in this game. He said despite the physical nature of the game, the Stars didn't take a single penalty.
The Stars finish the 2017-18 season with a 9-11-2 record.