HUDSON, Wis. — The Hudson boys’ hockey team has won 13 of its last 14 games, is ranked No. 2 in the state, is in first place in the Big Rivers Conference, and is the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Division 1, Section 1 playoffs. But head coach Jake Drewiske said none of that matters right now.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Drewiske said. “The conference is up for grabs, the sectional is up for grabs, and state is up for grabs.”
The Raiders picked up their 17th win of the season with a 3-2 victory over then-No. 2 ranked Wausau West in a possible sectional final preview Saturday night, Feb. 8. Hudson entered the game ranked No. 4 but the one-goal victory allowed them to switch spots with the Warriors in the state rankings and earn them the No. 1 seed in the sectional.
“Wausau West is a good team with a bunch of seniors, four solid defensemen, a good goalie, and they’re well coached,” Drewiske said. “And that’s a tough place to play. We’ll take the W. It helped us get the No. 1 seed, but it doesn’t mean we’ve accomplished anything.”
Hudson struck early when Nolan Wagner put back the rebound of a Zach Kochendorfer shot that hit the post 1 minute, 55 seconds into the first period. Carter Mears also got an assist on the goal.
The Raiders went up 2-0 three minutes into the second when Sam Ross dished the puck to Peyton Hanson on a two-on-one and Hanson converted the backhander for his team-leading 25th goal of the season.
Wausau West answered with a goal off a rebound two minutes later to make it a 2-1 game but the Raiders got their two-goal cushion back when Kochendorfer won a faceoff back to Mears, whose wrister snuck through traffic at the 13:27 mark of the second to five Hudson a 3-1 lead after two.
The Warriors got a goal with an extra skater on the ice with 1:08 remaining but that’s as close as they could get as Hudson hung on for the 3-2 win.
Hudson goalie Alex Ripplinger finished with 26 saves as the Raiders outshot the Warriors 33-28.
The victory boosted Hudson’s record to 17-4-0 while Wausau West slipped to 18-3-0.
Two nights earlier, the Raiders maintained their lead over Eau Claire Memorial in the BRC standings with a convincing 10-2 victory over Menomonie. The win gave Hudson a record of 9-1-0 in BRC play, three points ahead of Eau Claire Memorial (7-2-1) with two conference games remaining, including a showdown with Memorial Feb. 13 in Eau Claire.
Thirteen Raiders recorded at least one point, led by Hanson with two goals and four assists. Harvey Dove had two goals and three assists and Sam Ross and two goals and an assist.
Mears and James Fremling added a goal and assist apiece and Kolton Prater, Bryce Handberg and Wagner scored a goal each while Max Giblin had two assists and Kochendorfer, Matthew Mauer, Easton Schultz and Nick Jilek registered one each.
Braden Meyer got the start in goal and made 10 saves as the Raiders outshot the Mustangs 46-12.
Drewiske said the Raiders’ No. 1 goal right now is to win the BRC.
“Our first goal is to win conference, and that comes down to our last two games of the year this week against Rice Lake and Memorial,” he said. “Our second goal is winning the sectional and getting to state. I don’t want the team or the staff to fall into the trap of thinking it’s going to be easy; it’s not. Things get tougher when you have that number one on your back.”
The Raiders will host Rice Lake Tuesday night, Feb. 11, before facing Eau Claire Memorial at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire Thursday, Feb. 13. They’ll wrap up the regular season with a nonconference game at home against University School of Milwaukee Friday night, Feb. 14, before beginning postseason play at home against either No. 8 seed Stevens Point or No. 9 Wisconsin Rapids Thursday night, Feb. 20.
Drewiske said the Raiders are taking things one step at a time.
“We’re approaching it as one game at a time,” he said. “The next shift, the next play. Nothing else matters. If we do that, we’ll be OK.”