HUDSON, Wis. -- Last year Chippewa Falls ended the Hudson boys’ hockey team’s run to the state tournament. This year, not so much.
The Raiders scored three power play goals and iced the game with an empty-netter for a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals to claim their 11th sectional title in program history and earn a berth at the WIAA State Tournament for the fifth time in the last six years.
“It's definitely nice to be on the other side of it,” Hudson coach Davis Drewiske said. “That was a really tough loss for us last year and we were really disappointed.”
After Chippewa Falls was whistled for a penalty one minute into the game, Zach Kochendorfer made them pay 21 seconds later with an assist from Oliver Schroeder to give the Raiders a quick 1-0 lead.
Another Chippewa penalty at the three minute mark resulted in an Alex Pottratz power play goal, and just like that the Raiders were up 2-0. Matthew Mauer and Brody Dietz earned assists on the score.
Carter Mears scored Hudson’s third power play goal five minutes into the second period with an assist from Hunter Danielson before Chippewa Falls made it a 3-1 game after two.
A Cardinal goal 6:07 into the third period tightened things up, but Mauer sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 12 seconds remaining to make the final 4-2.
Drewiske said the Cardinals made the Raiders work for the win.
“Chip obviously brought a lot of guys back from their team last year so they played hard and wouldn't go away easily,” he said. “We had chances to extend our lead and kind of put them away but we weren't able to do it and let them hang around.”
Hudson goalie Alex Ripplinger finished with 22 saves as the Raiders outshot the Cardinals 42-24.
The win came four nights after the top-seeded Raiders scored three goals in the second period to snap a 1-1 tie and go on to beat fifth-seeded Eau Claire Memorial for the third time this season, 5-2, Tuesday night in Hudson.
The Raiders scored the only goal of the first period when Kochendorfer gathered up a rebound of a Sam Ross shot and slid the puck to Dietz for a power play goal at the 15:44 mark.
Eau Claire Memorial scored 22 seconds in the second period to tie the score but Kochendorfer and Pottratz struck two minutes apart to give the Raiders a 3-1 lead. Kochendorfer’s goal came at the 4:11 mark with assists from Ben Parent and Ross, while Pottratz scored at 6:11 with Danielson and Max Giblin assisting.
Ross tallied a power play goal with assists from Mauer and Kochendorfer with just under three minutes remaining in the second period to make it a 4-1 game before Mauer added an empty-netter late in the third to make the final 5-1. Ross and Giblin picked up assists.
Ripplinger finished with 16 saves as the Raiders outshot the Old Abes 23-17.
The Raiders, now 18-3-0, earned the No. 2 seed for the four-team state tournament and will host No. 3 Green Bay Notre Dame Thursday, Feb. 18. The winner will play for the state title against either top-seeded University School of Milwaukee or No. 4 Verona Saturday, Feb. 20, at approximately 2:30 p.m. at South Wood County Rink in Wisconsin Rapids.
Drewiske said the Raiders are excited about the rare opportunity to host a state semifinal game at Gornick Arena, but they’re keeping their eyes on the big picture as well.
“It's awesome that we get to host a state semifinal game in our home rink,” he said. “But we’re down to the last four and obviously all good teams, I think any one of the four could win it. So you have to play your best and put together a complete game, but I think our kids are excited for the opportunity to go and play hard and hopefully things go our way.”