MADISON, Wis.-- Thursday night’s WIAA girls’ hockey state semifinal game between Hudson and Xavier had a little bit of everything.
It included a penalty shot, 12 power plays and two shorthanded goals, and ended with a rink-long, bank shot empty-netter that would be the envy of any good pool player. When the final horn sounded, after the scoreboard clock had been out for three of the final five minutes, Hudson found itself on the short end of a 4-2 decision to the defending champion Stars.
It’s the second straight year Xavier has ended Hudson’s season after beating the Raiders in double overtime in last year’s state championship game.
Hudson coach Matt Szypura was still trying to sort it out 20 minutes after the postgame handshake.
“A couple misses here and there, the puck slides one way or the other, a call here or there. I don’t know,” he said. “It is what it is. We came and battled and put everything out there. We just couldn’t find a way.”
Sophomore Leah Parker scored both Hudson goals-- one on a penalty shot and the other a shorthanded breakaway, and the Raiders outshot the Stars 26-19 for the game. But Xavier had a power play and shorthanded goal of its own, and with the Raiders skating 6-on-4 seeking the tying goal during a frantic final 1 minute, 30 seconds, Xavier’s McKayla Zilisch cleared the puck from deep in her own end and it banked off the boards at center ice and into the empty Hudson net to seal the outcome.
Xavier scored a power play goal and a shorthanded goal 1:11 apart late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead before Parker was pulled down on a breakaway and awarded a rare penalty shot. With only her and Xavier goalie Ella Scriboski on the ice, Parker faked a shot on her forehand before slipping a backhander past Scroboski’s left skate to cut the Stars’ lead to 2-1 with 1:12 left in the first period.
“That’s all her,” Szypura said when asked if the Raiders practice penalty shots. “I can’t tell you how many breakaways she’s had this year, and it’s always been her forehand. We were joking with her that she never goes to her backhand, and she finally did and just looked at us like, yeah, I have a backhand.”
The momentum was short-lived however, as Xavier answered just 41 seconds later to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Parker gave Hudson a boost late in the second period when Nikki Olund chipped the puck ahead to her on a penalty kill and Parker converted it into a shorthanded breakaway goal-- this time on her forehand-- to cut Xavier’s lead to 3-2 after two.
The Raiders pulled out all the stops in the third period, outshooting the Stars 13-3 despite taking a pair of early penalties. Just as the second penalty expired Xavier was whistled for tripping when Quinn Winkoski was upended while reaching for the puck at center ice with nobody in front of her but the Raiders couldn’t capitalize despite a number of chances.
Then, with 5 minutes remaining and Hudson on another power play, the scoreboard clock suddenly went out. Play continued until a shot by Parker was gloved by Scriboski, forcing a faceoff in the Stars’ defensive zone and Szypura to call a timeout. By the time play resumed, Hudson goalie Alayna Kunshier was on the bench and the clock was restored with 1:58 remaining.
Twenty-eight seconds later Xavier was called for an elbowing penalty, giving Hudson a 6-on-4 advantage with 1:30 left. But Zilisch dashed Hudson’s overtime hopes when her clearing attempt ricocheted directly into the Raider empty net with 18 seconds remaining to send the Stars to Saturday’s state title game against the Madison Metro Lynx.
Szypura said it was pure chaos on the Raider bench the final five minutes.
“We didn’t even know what time it was on the clock,” he said. “We were just kind of, alright, I think this is how much time is left. It was really tough. To see them work so hard during the season and the the playoffs; I don’t think we played our greatest first period but we came back and regrouped right up to the end there.”
Each team was whistled for six penalties, resulting in two power play goals and two shorthanded tallies. Szypura said that made it tough to get into a rhythm.
“It kind of strips the whole flow,” he said. “It goes obviously against your game plan. You don’t want to spend the whole game on special teams; Maybe the power play but that’s not happening. You start killing penalties and trying to rotate lines and get fresh girls out there give some girls a rest and it gets tough.”
Szypura said he feels especially bad for the team’s six seniors-- Kunshier, Morgan Miller, Mallory Thompson, Quinn Winkoski, Rose Giblin and Taylor Wandschneider-- while adding he couldn’t be prouder of them.
“They’ve been a great leadership core,” he said. “It’s always fun every year to see what kind of leaders emerge. How you put seniors in leadership positions and see how they grow not only as hockey players but as young women too. It’s very rewarding. As a hockey coach, losing this game kind of sucks, but overall, the journey and how we got here, it’s very rewarding. It’s one of the reasons we keep coaching.”
Xavier went on to defeat Middleton 5-3 Saturday to win its second straight state title.