HUDSON, Wis. -- This year’s state hockey tournament may not have been played in Madison, but that didn’t matter to the Raiders.
“I don't care where it is,” Hudson coach Davis Drewiske said. “It still counts,”
The WIAA State Boys Hockey Tournament has been played in Madison every year since its inception in 1971, except for 1974 and 1975 when it was played in Green Bay. The Dane County Coliseum in Madison, now known as the Alliant Energy Center, has been the exclusive home of the tournament since 1980.
But due to public health orders in Dane County regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of adjustments had to be made to this year’s state tourney, including moving the state semifinals to the home of the higher seed and holding the state finals on one day at South Wood County Recreation Center in Wisconsin Rapids.
But none of that mattered to the Raiders, who took advantage of home ice advantage in the semifinals to defeat Green Bay Notre Dame 6-2 Thursday night, Feb. 18, before defeating defending state champion Verona 4-0 in Saturday’s title game.
“It was a change of pace,” senior captain Hunter Danielson, a member of Hudson's last two state qualifying teams in Madison, said. “But we worked really hard all year, and we knew it wasn't gonna be the same. We knew that, and it all came down to the end and we did it; we finished the job.”
Like every other team in the state, Hudson had to deal with a variety of challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that affected everything from team meetings to locker room assignments to even the traditional postgame handshake. But Danielson said the biggest adjustment was simply doing what it took to stay safe while attending school and ensure sure they could remain on the ice. And that meant committing to online classes.
“All of us bought in and realized we were probably better off being online instead of taking the risk of contact tracing,” he said. “We just decided to stay home, and look what it brought us. We were able to play and none of us got shut down.”
While Hudson was dealing with its set of challenges, its opponent in Saturday’s state title game-- Verona-- had a whole different set of issues to deal with. Due to public health orders in Dane County, the Wildcats were unable to practice or play games as part of the WIAA season until Jan. 4. And when they finally were able to start their season they were forced to play all of their games on the road.
Despite the obstacles, Verona was still able to reach the state championship game with a 14-4 record, including a 5-1 road victory over No. 1 ranked University School of Milwaukee in the state semifinals. USM had handed Hudson one of its three losses this season, 5-1, just two weeks earlier.
Drewiske said while it wasn’t a normal season for any team in the state this year, he’s particularly proud of the Raiders for rallying together to win a state title despite the challenges.
“You know, it's a great group of kids and they’re a pleasure to coach,” he said. “We lost a lot of talented players from our team last year, but these guys really bought in and really listened and were committed to playing hard for each other and doing all the right things.”