RIVER FALLS, Wis.-- After helping the St. Croix Valley Fusion clinch their first Big Rivers Conference girls’ hockey title in four years with a 3-0 victory over the Eau Claire Stars Tuesday night, Feb. 4, in Eau Claire, senior defenseman Madyson Shew had another item left on her to-do list.
“Score a goal,” she said.
Shew did just that in the Fusion’s 7-1 victory over Onalaska in their regular season finale two nights later in Baldwin. Now she and her teammates are focused on their next goal.
“Getting to state,” she said.
Shew and the Fusion will begin that quest as the No. 2 seed in the seven team section 1 playoffs by hosting No. 7 Superior at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at River Falls’ Wildcat Centre. Despite beating Eau Claire last week for the BRC title and finishing the season with a record of 19-5-0, the fourth-ranked Fusion received the No. 2 seed in the sectional while the second-ranked Stars (18-3-1) earned No. 1 and a first round bye.
St. Croix Valley head coach Matt Cranston said the seedings mean very little in a sectional as competitive as the Fusion’s.
“We have such a great section,” he said. “Eau Claire, Hudson, us, Hayward, Western Wisconsin, They’re all good. It’s going to be a battle.”
The Fusion earned their first BRC title since 2016, and the fifth in the program’s 12-year history, by shutting out Eau Claire 3-0 on the road last Tuesday. The victory avenged a 2-0 loss to the Stars earlier this season and gave the Fusion a final BRC record of 5-1 while Eau Caire finished 4-2.
“It’s good to be back,” Cranston said. “It’s good to win the conference back.”
Eau Claire outshot St. Croix Valley 29-17 but Abbie DeLong, Juneau Paulsen and Amber DeLong made their shots count and Sydney Seeley was perfect between the pipes to give the Fusion the title.
The Fusion had just five shots on goal in the first period but came out of it with a 1-0 lead off a goal by Abbie DeLong with an assist from Bella Rasmuson.
Paulson converted from Jaden Woiwode and Lilly Accola for the only goal of the second period before Amber DeLong added an empty-netter with under two minutes remaining to make the final 3-0.
Two nights later against Onalaska, Abbie and Amber DeLong scored two goals each and Shew, Trinity Mittl and Tyann Mittl had a goal apiece in a 7-1 victory over the Hilltoppers.
Shew, who had nine assists this season from her blue line position, said it felt good when she knocked home a rebound of an Amber DeLong shot early in the second period to give the Fusion a 4-1 lead.
“I’ve actually been wanting a goal all season,” she said. “You could ask my teammates. They kept trying to get me a goal and I finally got one so that was really cool. And in the last game of the regular season.”
Shew was a freshman on the Fusion’s last BRC title team in 2016, after watching her older sister Heather win a pair of WIAA state titles with the Fusion in 2011 and 2102. Now she’s hoping she can be on the ice the first weekend of March in Madison as the Fusion go for their first state tournament appearance since 2014.
“I’ve never been there as a player,” she said. “I watched my sister multiple years. Now maybe she can come back and watch me play.”
Cranston said the Fusion are peaking at the right time.
“We’ve won 11 out of our last 12, and that’s the goal as a coach,” he said. “You don’t want to peak during the middle, you want to peak right at the end. And with the win over Eau Claire for the conference championship and a convincing win here, I think we’re playing really well right now.”