Doesn't matter what sport or or at what level; it's just plain hard to beat the same team three times in one season. Top-seeded Onalaska found that out the hard way Friday night. Despite winning 17 of their last 18 games, the Hilltoppers couldn't take care of Sparta when it mattered most, losing a tight contest 4-3. I've had a soft spot for Sparta since (1) I learned their name was the Vipers and (2) I visited their home rink during my grand tour two years ago. It's easily the most intimidating rink in Wisconsin. Low ceilings, boards that haven't been painted since Lynn Dickey played for the Packers, dog-fighting at center ice between periods. Okay, I'm making up the last part, but the place is scary. So beware a red-hot Viper team as they make their very first trip to Madison.
Superior 3, New Richmond 0
After a 3-0 revenge victory over New Richmond, the boys in powder blue, er, Columbia Blue, make their 34th trip to state. The games was played in front of 1000+ screaming fans in Amery. (If you want an exciting hockey atmosphere, fill a smaller rink; are you listening WIAA?) The Spartans have to be considered a clear favorite in Madison, having lost to only one Wisconin-based team all year. That one team? Oh, that would be Notre Dame Academy, their first round opponent on the slush and drat droppings that pass for an ice surface at the Alliant Center. I'm booking my flight now. Yeeeehaaawwwww.
I'm torn about the the New Richmond jerseys. I like a big number
but is the font too fancy for the practice jersey-style design on the
top? Talk amongst yourselves.
Interesting fact: Despite being the powerhouse that they are, the Old Abes have never been to state three years in a row. Until now. ECM shows real grit in coming back from a 2-0 and 3-2 deficit to run away with a victory against an equally gritty Chippewa Falls squad, proving that it's not just the not-so-gritty North Bay Blackjacks who can't hold a lead when it counts.
I haven't see people this excited about a trophy since
I showed up at Rocky's with the Wooden Plank.
|When captains collide, everyone wins.|
I'm really getting tired of these hot shot freshmen kicking so much serious ass in this year's tourney. Yet another too-young-to-see Porky's newbie, Kevin Conley, rises to the occasion with a huge hat trick to lead Wausau West back to state with a convincing 6-1 thumping of Northland Pines.
There was a barn burner at Wilson park, my old stomping grounds when I was a bench warmer for Marquette University's club hockey team. 1600+ were on hand to watch Brookfield prove that a low seed, like a body fat measurement, is only a number. They end Fondy's Cinderella run with a thrilling 2-1 win. While one feel-good story ends, another takes its next chapter to Madison. Brookfield's top 5 scorers are seniors and they understand this is their last chance for glory.
Notre Dame Academy 2, Bay Port 0
Sometimes a great goalie is all you need. But only sometimes. Bay Port's Nate Eminger stops 27 shots in the first two periods to keep the game scoreless, but Notre Dame finally slips one past him in the third, then adds an empty netter, to eek out a win over the Pirates. Equally crushing was my first exposure to the Bay Port uniform, which was about as anticlimactic as discovering it was my son, and not our comely next door neighbor, who placed a Valentine on my car windshield a few short weeks ago.
Nate Eminger ponders what might have been had the powers to be put
an ounce of imagination into his team's uniform design.
Speaking of uniform crimes, I was stunned to see this photo of KM's hockey jersey:
Remind you of anyone? Need a hint?
A travesty. The fashion gods render their verdict. And it is just.
Verona 4, Middleton 2
We'll leave it to Mike Moore to verify, but rumor has it that this was a great game. For a nice change of pace, it was a senior, and an ailing one at that, who made the difference here. Wildcat Ben Scherschel was sporting a bad wheel, but still broke open a 2-2 tie with only his fourth goal of the year and sent Verona to The Big Ice for another shot at all the cheese. It's not the number of goals you score, Ben, it's when you score them. Well done.
Next up: A look at the leader board.