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WIAA state hockey preview: Verona represents the area in the 12-team boys and girls field
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WIAA STATE HOCKEY PREVIEW

WIAA state hockey preview: Verona represents the area in the 12-team boys and girls field

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THE BASICS

What: The 51st annual WIAA state boys hockey tournament and 20th annual WIAA state girls hockey tournament.

When: Wednesday (girls semifinals), Thursday (boys semifinals) and Saturday (all finals).

Where: Semifinal games hosted by higher-seeded teams; finals at South Wood County Rink, Wisconsin Rapids.

Tickets: Tickets, at $13 per session, are available only through member schools with qualifying teams, with a limit of six tickets per participant. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no general admission tickets will be available.

Online: Information, including schedules, results with box scores and play-by-play, and tournament history can be found at www.wiaawi.org/Sports/Winter/Boys-Hockey and www.wiaawi.org/Sports/Winter/Girls-Hockey. The state tournament program, with rosters and team statistics, is available for free PDF download at bit.ly/3dr2Pr4. Official state tournament apparel may be browsed and purchased at wiaahockey21.itemorder.com.

Streaming, broadcast: All semifinal games will be streamed on the WIAA.TV portal of the NFHS Network at a subscription rate of $10.99 per month. Archived streams will be available on demand 72 hours after the tournament. All championship games will be carried live on the WIAA State Television Network, including Ch. 27 in Madison.

Last year: In Division 1, Verona won the program’s first state championship with a 2-1 overtime victory over Green Bay Notre Dame; in Division 2, Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs beat Eagle River Northland Pines, 5-1; in the girls final, the Appleton Xavier co-op won its second consecutive title with a 5-3 win over the Middleton co-op.

Girls semifinals, Wednesday: No. 4-seeded University School of Milwaukee co-op (17-3-0) vs. No. 1 Eau Claire North co-op (12-4-1) at Chippewa Falls Ice Center, 3 p.m.; No. 4 Chippewa Falls co-op (12-6-1) at No. 2 Schofield D.C. Everest co-op (13-5-0), Greenheck Field House, Schofield, 7 p.m.

Boys semifinals, 7 p.m. Thursday:

Division 1 — No. 4 Verona (15-6-0) at No. 1 University School of Milwaukee (24-2-0) at Uihlein Ice; No. 3 Green Bay Notre Dame (15-3-0) at No. 2 Hudson (19-3-0) at Gornick Arena.

Division 2 — No. 4 Somerset co-op (15-11-1) at No. 1 Fond du Lac St. Mary‘s Springs (24-2-0) at Blue Line Family Ice Center; No. 3 Minocqua Lakeland (13-4-0) vs. No. 2 Superior (10-5-0) at Spooner Civic Center.

Finals (Saturday at South Wood County Rink, Wisconsin Rapids) — Division 2 boys, 9:30 a.m.; girls, about 12:10 p.m.; Division 1 boys, about 2:30 p.m.

THE LOWDOWN

Division 1 boys

Verona, which made the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season and 10th time overall, is seeking a second consecutive title. Coach Joel Marshall’s Wildcats, seeded fourth and unranked in the WisconsinPrepHockey.net state poll, advanced with a 5-2 victory over Waunakee in a sectional final. Due to Dane County COVID-19 restrictions, Verona’s players started the season as a club program until gaining clearance in January to return to high school competition. The Wildcats have not played a game inside Dane County all season, and lost three of four games during the transition to high school play before taking a four-game winning streak to state. Sophomore forward Reece Cordray leads the scorers with 17 goals and 32 points, followed by senior forward Leo Renlund with 29 points, junior forward Anthony Heinrichs with 25 and senior forward Walker Haessig with 22. All-State senior goaltender Kaden Grant has a 1.92 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.

University School of Milwaukee is at state for the third consecutive season and 14th time overall with three championships. First-year coach Matt Roadhouse’s Wildcats, seeded first and ranked first, earned this year’s berth with a 2-1 victory over the Wales Kettle Moraine co-op in the sectional final. The team has won nine straight following a 5-2 loss to Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs, and also lost in overtime to Eau Claire Memorial. Senior forward Noah Eghbali has 39 points and 23 goals, followed by senior forward Ethan Mann with 38, freshman forward Jack McGregor with 36 and junior forward Ethan Thoms with 34. Junior Jack Schroeder (1.39 goals allowed, .929 save percentage) and sophomore Michael Polston (1.69, .943) have shared goaltender duties.

Hudson, which won its third and fourth overall championships in 2017 and 2018, is at state for the fifth time in the past six years. First-year coach Davis Drewiske’s Raiders, seeded and ranked second, beat Chippewa Falls 4-2 in a sectional final. The Raiders lost regular-season games to University School, Madison Edgewood and Mahtomedi, Minnesota. Senior forward Sam Ross and junior defenseman Max Giblin lead the team with 31 points, junior forward Carter Means has 29 points and senior forward Hunter Danielson has 26 points and a team-high 20 goals. Senior guard Alex Ripplinger has a 1.8 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.

Green Bay Notre Dame, seeded third and ranked fourth, took a 3-2 victory over Bay Port in a sectional final to make state for the third time in four years and eighth time overall. Coach Cory McCracken’s Tritons won their only title in 2012. Senior forward Brendan Poshak leads with 14 goals and 32 points, and sophomore forward Hunter Bill has 30 points. Senior goaltender Xander Roberts has a 1.77 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

Division 2 boys Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs returns to defend the program’s first state title, earned last year in its first season as a standalone (non-cooperative) program. Coach John Welsch’s Ledgers, ranked first and seeded first, took a 4-0 victory over Oregon in a sectional final and have won three straight after a 7-2 loss to Madison Edgewood snapped an 11-game streak. Senior forward Brady Welsch leads the Ledgers with 40 goals and 73 points, junior forward Dayne Deanovich has 27 goals and 57 points, and senior forward Calvin Grass has 25 goals and 56 points. Sophomore goalie Hayden Rising has a 1.25 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.

The Somerset co-op, which includes St. Croix Falls and Osceola Valley Christian, earned its second consecutive state trip with a 2-1 sectional victory over the Altoona co-op. Coach Dan Gilkerson’s fourth-seeded and unranked Spartans have won three straight after losing their season finale to Superior. Junior forward Owen McDonough has 38 points, senior forward A.J. Simpkins has 30 and junior forward Antonio Gomez leads the team with 18 goals and has 27 points. Goaltender Kaleb Bents has a 2.29 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

Superior has won 13 state championships, the most in WIAA history, with its most recent coming in 2015. The Spartans also have earned 11 runner-up finishes. Coach Jasin Kalin’s second-ranked and second-seeded team earned its 38th state berth with a 3-2 win over Rice Lake in a sectional final. This is Superior’s first state trip in the Division 2 enrollment class. Superior has won seven straight after consecutive losses to Hayward and Duluth (Minnesota) East. Sophomore forward Carson Gotelaere and junior forwards Tyler Friedrich and Kell Piggott have 10 points each, and senior goalie Jamin Durfee has a 2.21 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

Minocqua Lakeland earned the first state trip in program history with a 5-1 victory over Rhinelander/Three Lakes in a sectional final. Coach Jake Suter’s Thunderbirds, seeded third and ranked fifth, lost three of their last four regular-season games before winning three in a row to make state. Senior forward Max Toijala has 18 goals and 37 points to lead the Thunderbirds, and senior forward Joe Beda has 32 points. Sophomore goaltender Max Masayesva has a 1.99 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

Girls The Eau Claire North co-op, which includes Altoona, Eau Claire Memorial and Fall Creek, earned its second state trip and first since its 2018 debut resulted in a championship. Coach Tom Bernhardt’s Stars, seeded first and ranked fourth, took a 5-4 win over the Marshfield co-op in a sectional final. The Stars have won seven of their last eight games, losing only in two overtimes to River Falls during that run. Senior forward Paige Rodriguez leads with 15 goals and 24 points, and junior goaltender Alesha Smith has a 1.27 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.

The University School of Milwaukee co-op, which includes six other schools, earned its first state trip in its current configuration. A co-op made up of two fewer schools won the state title in 2015 and took second in 2016. Coach Dan Carey’s Wildcats, seeded fourth and unranked, advanced with a three-overtime, 3-2 victory over Hartland Arrowhead in a sectional final. The Wildcats have won 14 straight after losing three of their first six games. Senior forward Jordan Bonk has 21 points, sophomore forward Eileen Carey has 11 goals and 20 points, and freshman Molly Jex (0.36 goals-against average, .980 save percentage) and junior Sami Stommel (2.38, .885) have shared goaltending duties.

The Schofield D.C. Everest co-op, which includes five additional schools including Wausau East and West, earned its third state trip in the past four years with a 5-1 victory over the state’s top-ranked team, the Appleton Xavier co-op, in a sectional final. Coach Jacques du Vair’s second-seeded Central Wisconsin Storm have won three state titles and made 10 other state trips in a smaller co-op arrangement, with the last title coming in 2017. The Storm lost three of its last four regular-season games. Junior forward Samantha Federici has 14 goals and 24 points, and senior forward Audrey Ladewig has 20 points. Sophomore goalie Chloe Lemke has a 1.55 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.

The Chippewa Falls co-op, which includes Chippewa Falls McDonell and Menomonie, is making its first state trip in its current configuration. Coach Tony Menard’s sixth-ranked and third-seeded Sabers beat the No. 3-ranked River Falls co-op 7-4 in a sectional final. The Sabers lost their regular-season finale in overtime to Hayward, but beat the Hurricanes in a regional final. Senior forward Sidney Polzin has 23 goals and 37 points, senior Ella Ausman has 25 points and freshman forward Paige Steinmetz has 23 points. Senior goaltender Caroline O’Dell has a 2.23 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

— Art Kabelowsky

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