RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- The St. Croix Valley Fusion were forced to play catch-up against the Chippewa Falls/Menomonie Sabers Saturday afternoon in River Falls. And it didn’t work.

After the Sabers jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead in their girls’ hockey sectional final at Wildcat Centre, the second-seeded Fusion pulled to within a goal on three separate occasions. But that’s as close as they could get as the fourth-seeded Sabers pulled away for a 7-4 victory to advance to this week’s WIAA State Tournament.

It was the second straight upset in the sectional round for the Sabers, who knocked off the top-seeded Western Wisconsin Stars in the sectional semifinals.

Trailing 2-0 after one, Kendall Sundby put the Fusion on the board with a power-play goal one minute into the second period with assists from Makenzie Weiss and Jaden Woiwode.

St. Croix Valley’s Kendall Sundby (10) tucks her own rebound into the net as teammate Jenna Bergmanis begins to celebrate in the second period of the Fusion’s sectional final against Chippewa Falls/Menomonie Saturday afternoon, Feb. 13, at River Falls’ Wildcat Centre. Sundby’s power play goal cut Chippewa Falls/Menomonie’s lead to 3-2 but the Fusion couldn’t get any closer in a 7-4 loss to the Sabers. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia
St. Croix Valley’s Kendall Sundby (10) tucks her own rebound into the net as teammate Jenna Bergmanis begins to celebrate in the second period of the Fusion’s sectional final against Chippewa Falls/Menomonie Saturday afternoon, Feb. 13, at River Falls’ Wildcat Centre. Sundby’s power play goal cut Chippewa Falls/Menomonie’s lead to 3-2 but the Fusion couldn’t get any closer in a 7-4 loss to the Sabers. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

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Chippewa Falls/Menomonie led 3-1 later in the period when Sundby struck again, tucking in her own rebound at the 11:59 mark to make it a 3-2 game.

The Sabers answered with a goal less than two minutes later but the Fusion came right when Jenna Bergmanis’ shot from the point found the back of the net to make it a 4-3 game after two.

Chippewa Falls/Menomonie scored twice in the first half of the third period to extend their lead to 6-3 but Bergmanis gave the Fusion a chance with her second goal of the game, with an assist from Woiwode on the power play, with just under seven minutes remaining.

The Sabers went on to ice the game with a breakaway goal with just under four minutes remaining and added an empty-netter with 24 seconds left to make the final 7-4.

St. Croix Valley goalie Olivia Dumond finished with 15 saves as the Fusion outshot the Sabers 32-21.

The Fusion advanced to the sectional championship game with a 3-0 victory over Hudson in the sectional semifinals Tuesday night, Feb. 9, at Wildcat Centre.

Sundby scored twice and Tyann Mittl had a shorthanded goal while Dumond stopped all 21 shots she faced.

Sundby had a hand in all three Fusion goals, opening the scoring at the 15:24 mark of the first period, with assists from Weiss and Kiara Therriault, before assisting on Mittl’s shorthanded tally at the 11:04 mark of the second. She added an unassisted empty-netter with 34 seconds remaining to make the final 3-0.

Amelia Halunen started in net for Hudson and stopped 11 of 13 shots in just over 28 minutes of action before Catterina Donna stopped all 10 shots she faced the rest of the way.