HUDSON, Wis. -- The Hudson boys’ hockey team has played a lot of good games this season. But Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 state title game in Wisconsin Rapids may have been its best.
The Raiders dominated defending state champion Verona, outshooting the Wildcats 35-7 and scoring twice in both the first and third periods to claim their fifth state championship in school history and third in the last five years.
“Tonight was our most complete game of the year,” Hudson coach and Raider alum Davis Drewiske said. “Maybe with the exception of our power play, but five-on-five we did a really good job, and penalty kill we did a really good job. And that was a good time to put together a full three periods.”
Hudson scored twice in a 53-second span in the first period to set the tone. Carter Mears started things off when he sent a wrister through traffic from between the circles 9 minutes, 11 seconds into the game with Carson Strapon earning an assist on the play.
Alex Pottratz followed with a one-timer from the top of the right circle off a pass from Hunter Danielson at the 10:04 mark to make it a 2-0 game.
After holding Verona to just one shot in the opening period, the Raiders kept up the pressure in the second but hit either a post or the crossbar three times. Meanwhile Verona’s best scoring chance came midway through the period when a Wildcat player crashed the net following an Alex Ripplinger save and both the Verona player and Ripplinger slid into the net as it became dislodged. But the puck never crossed the goal line and replay review confirmed the call and the score remained 2-0, despite Hudson holding a 21-5 advantage in shots on goal.
Shortly after killing off their third penalty of the game, Mears found the back of the net again by converting a Strapon pass from behind the end line at the 4:02 mark to make it a 3-0 game.
“I thought that was huge,” Drewiske said about the Raiders’ third goal. “We all kind of took a deep breath after that. I think I was a little nervous going into the second and felt like we should have capitalized on some of those opportunities to extend our lead, but we just stuck with it.”
Matthew Mauer made it 4-0 with an empty-netter with assists from Zach Kochendorfer and Sam Ross, and just over two minutes later the celebration was on.
Ripplinger recorded his sixth shutout of the season in the state title game as the Raiders finished the season with a record of 20-3.
The Raiders advanced to the state title game by scoring the last five goals of the game in a 6-2 victory over Green Bay Notre Dame in a state semifinal Thursday night, Feb. 18, in Hudson. Hudson scored twice in the second period to take a 3-2 lead before icing the game with three more goals in the third.
Notre Dame was whistled for a pair of penalties just over a minute apart early and Hudson made them pay when Kochendorfer scored on the 5-on-3 advantage just over three minutes into the game with assists from Mauer and Brody Dietz.
The lead was short-lived though as Notre Dame’s Hunter Bill tied it up on the Tritons’ first shot of the game two minutes later and Notre Dame took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Brandon Poshak at the 13 minute mark.
Kochendorfer struck again 4:29 into the second period when he squeezed the puck between Notre Dame goalie Xander Roberts and the right post to tie the score and Pottratz put the Raiders up for good off a nifty feed from Danielson just 31 seconds later after Bryce Handberg delivered a big hit to gain control of the puck along the left circle.
The Raiders kept up the pressure in the third period and took a 4-2 lead at the 3:20 mark when Ben Parent carried the puck behind the net and flipped it over Roberts’ left shoulder as he skated back out front. Just over a minute later with Notre Dame on the power play, Parent poked the puck away from a Triton attacker in the neutral zone and Handberg turned it into a shorthanded breakaway goal to extend the Raider lead to 5-2. Nick Jilek made the final 6-2 when he chipped in a Max Giblin pass from behind the net with 3:52 remaining.
Ripplinger finished with 10 saves as the Raiders outshot the Tritons 25-12, including 9-2 in the decisive third period.
Hudson’s previous state titles came in 2001, 2004 and back-to-back in 2017-18, and senior captain Danelson was a freshman on that 2018 state championship team. He also assisted on the Raiders’ lone goal in a 4-1 loss to Neenah in the Raiders’ last state tournament appearance in 2019. He said every player on this year’s team embraces the rich tradition of Hudson hockey, and were determined to live up to that legacy Saturday.
“We had a good meeting yesterday about the past years and the teams that won it and the attitude that they had,” Danielson said. “And we talked about the mindset that we needed to have coming into this game. And I’m very proud of the boys today; we really executed and finished the job.”
For Drewiske, it was an anniversary of sorts. He played on Hudson’s first state title team in 2001 before going on to win a national championship with the Wisconsin Badgers in 2006 and the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. He was a volunteer assistant coach alongside former Hudson teammate Brooks Lockwood on the Raiders’ back-to-back state title teams in 2017-18, and grew emotional when asked what it meant to bring another state title to his hometown in his first season as head coach.
“Hudson hockey means a lot to me,” he simply said. “I'm really proud to be from Hudson. I'm just really proud.”