The Western Wisconsin Stars don’t compete in a conference.
After several years of discussion that some form of recognition should be done to notice what the Stars and other girls hockey teams have done. Now it has.
The coaches from the Stars and five other teams that aren’t aligned with conferences pooled their efforts and formed the first All-Independent girls hockey team. The teams included are Black River Falls, Central Wisconsin, Hayward, Onalaska, Superior and Western Wisconsin.
Seven members of the Stars were named to the All-Independent team.
Stars assistant coach Breanna Seibel led the effort to get the team formed.
“I was upset that none of my girls could be named to an all-conference team and I thought that our girls should be recognized for their hard work, just like all of the other kids get when they are part of a conference,” Seibel said.
The coaches from the six respective teams nominated players similar to an all-conference format and voting was done by the coaches for a first, second and honorable mention team.
Three Stars were voted to the first team. Freshman forward Makenzie Weeks was one of three unanimous first choice selections. Freshman Erin Huerta was also named as a forward and senior Jade Williams was named to the defense.
Stars named to the second team were sophomore forward Ellie Brice and junior defense Bailey Williams. Receiving honorable mention status were junior defense Ally Dahlberg and junior goaltender Caitlyn Erickson.
Weeks had an outstanding freshman season she tied for third in the state with 26 goals scored and 47 total points. The Stars played 19 games this season. Coach Bob Huerta said that if they’d played their full allotment of 24 games, Weeks might have been the leading scorer in the state.
“She’s a goal-scoring machine,” Coach Huerta said. “She works non-stop. She’s always doing something to improve her game.”
Coach Huerta said Weeks, Brice and Erin Huerta should be spoken of as a group. They are the Tigers’ top line of forwards and they’ve played together for years. He recalled summer nights when his daughter and Weeks would be practicing shooting in their respective driveways while late into the night, while having their phones set up to talk with each other while perfecting their shots.
“They only know one speed. They give you everything they’ve got, every play,” Coach Huerta said of his first line girls. “They have the same like-mind and work ethic. They are always looking to improve.”
Jade Williams has been one of the key players for the Stars throughout her career. She finished her career with 64 goals and 104 points. She made her mark all over the ice for the Stars.
“She’s a difference maker. She’s got speed. She’s got great vision. A lot of teams coach their players to stop her,” Coach Huerta said.
Bailey Williams is an impact player on defense. Though she played much of the season on a bad ankle, she continued to be a physical defender with the speed to lead rushes. She finished the season with six goals and six assists.
“You can always count on her to make good defensive decisions,” Coach Huerta said.
Erickson developed into an elite level goaltender for the Stars this season. She stopped 92 percent of the shots she faced, finishing with a 1.78 goals against average.
“There were games, if it wasn’t for her, we would have lost,” Huerta said, using the season-opening win against the St. Croix Valley Fusion as an example. Huerta used terms like maturity and composure to describe how Erickson improved her game this season.
Dahlberg is a “stay-at-home” defender who concentrates on clearing opponents out from in front of the Stars’ net. She finished the season with six assists.
“When emotions run high, she keeps her composure. She’s always smiling. She always has something positive to say,” said Coach Huerta.