HUDSON, Wis.-- All Nikki Olund heard were her teammates yelling ‘Leah!’

“I just heard them yell ‘Leah!’ And I passed it over to her and it went in,” the Hudson junior said. “It was awesome."

Olund set up Leah Parker for a shorthanded goal 4 minutes, 37 seconds into the third period that proved to be the game winner in the Raiders’ 2-1 victory over the Eau Claire Area Stars in a WIAA girls’ hockey sectional final Saturday afternoon in Somerset.

“That was a big momentum change,” Hudson coach Matt Szypura said. “It was back and forth, penalties everywhere and special teams coming into play. Just to get a break like that, and to capitalize on it and weather the storm a little longer. Because they were sending everything. It was a good team win.”

Players and staff on the Hudson girls’ hockey team are all smiles as they show off the sectional championship plaque after defeating the Eau Claire Area Stars 2-1 in Saturday’s sectional final in Somerset. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia
Players and staff on the Hudson girls’ hockey team are all smiles as they show off the sectional championship plaque after defeating the Eau Claire Area Stars 2-1 in Saturday’s sectional final in Somerset. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

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All three goals in the game came from special teams, beginning with Taylor Wandschneider’s unassisted goal on a Hudson power play 2:35 into the second period to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.

Hudson killed off back-to-back penalties that resulted in a 5-on-3 Stars’ power play for a 59 second span midway through the period, and came up empty on a power play of their own to take a 1-0 lead into the locker room at the second intermission.

Hudson was whistled for its fourth penalty of the game 4:08 into the third period. But Olund poked the puck away from a Stars’ attacker at her own blue line, gathered it up along the boards at center ice and found Parker in stride behind an Eau Claire defender to put the Raiders up 2-0 just 29 seconds later.

Eau Claire got a power play goal at the 8:04 mark of the third to make it a 2-1 game, and Hudson couldn’t capitalize on its fourth power play of the game with five minutes remaining and the Stars called a time out with 1:37 left with hopes of pulling goaltender Alesha Smith for an extra attacker. But the Raiders maintained enough pressure to keep Smith in the crease until the final buzzer to earn their second straight trip to state.

“That was our goal,” Szypura said. “Keep the gas pedal down and don’t give them that chance to pull their goaltender and get an extra man on top of us.”

Hudson goalie Alayna Kunshier finished with 20 saves and Smith made 13 as the Stars outshot the Raiders 21-15.

It was the sixth straight win for the Raiders, who entered the postseason with a record of 10-12-1 and the No. 3 seed before beating No. 6 Western Wisconsin, No. 2 St. Croix Valley and No. 1 Eau Claire on their way to state. Hudson lost to Xavier 6-5 in double overtime in the 2019 state title game.

Szypura said all the ups and downs of the regular season are paying off now.

“We do have a tough schedule and it didn’t really go the way we wanted,” he noted. “And there was a lot of adversity we faced too with injuries. You could try and explain it all you want, but it’s a journey and it’s all about the destination. And we’re going to where we want to go now.”

The Raiders will open state tournament play with a rematch of last year’s state title game against Xavier Thursday, March 5, at approximately 6:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison. The winner will advance to the state title game Saturday at noon against either Middleton or Beloit Memorial.

Raiders skate past Fusion in sectional semifinal

HUDSON, Wis.-- The third time was the charm for the Hudson against the St. Croix Valley Fusion in the sectional semifinals.

After losing to the Fusion twice during the regular season, the Raiders posted a 6-1 victory last Tuesday in Baldwin to advance to the sectional title game.

St. Croix Valley struck first when Abbie DeLong converted a pass from Madyson Shew 5 minutes, 13 seconds into the game. But it was all Hudson after that.

Olund tied things up just 1:28 later off an assist from Wandschneider before Mallory Thompson scored twice-- at the 9:04 mark assisted by Quinn Winkoski and Bayley Glasspoole, and with 47 seconds left in the period with another Glasspoole assist-- to give Hudson a 3-1 lead after one.

Wandschneider knocked home the rebound of a shot by Glasspoole for a power play goal at 5:23 of the second period to make it a 4-1 game. Morgan Miller also earned an assist.

The Raiders kept up the pressure in the third period and Winkoski found the back of the net with just under seven minutes remaining in the game with assists from Glasspoole and Thompson, before Leah Parker made the final 6-1 with Wandschneider picking up her third point of the night.

Hudson goalie Alayna Kunshier stopped 21 of the 22 shots she faced, including all 16 over the final two periods, while St. Croix Valley goalie Sydney Seeley finished with 19 saves.

Fusion coach Matt Cranston said the Fusion were hit by a breakout of the flu just before the postseason that was so bad the team emptied and sanitized its locker rooms in River Falls and Baldwin in an attempt to limit its spread.

“We’ve had girls get sick before but nothing like this,” he said. “The timing couldn’t have been worse.”

St. Croix Valley ended the season with a record of 20-6.