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St. Croix Valley Fusion junior Lily Cranston of River Falls (7) watches her shot get stopped by Capital City Cougars (Madison co-op) goalie Janna Beilke-Skoug in the first period of Saturday's holiday tournament game at the United Center in Baldwin. The Fusion scored two third period goals to record a 2-0 win. Bob Burrows photo

Fusion sweep own tourney

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The St. Croix Valley Fusion improved to 3-0-1 on the season by winning all three of its games at the Thanksgiving Holiday Tournament at the United Center in Baldwin last week.

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The Fusion defeated Hayward/Spooner 4-1 Wednesday, the Webster Blizzard (Webster, Grantsburg, Luck, Siren Frederic), 8-2 Friday, and the Capital City Cougars (Madison co-op) 2-0 Saturday.

The Fusion opened Big Rivers Conference play Tuesday night in Menomonie and will host Minnesota powerhouse South St. Paul Thursday at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Centre in River Falls.

"This could be the game of the year," Fusion head coach Matt Cranston said about Thursday's showdown. "Over the years, they have been one of the most successful girls' programs in the country and they are right in our barn."

The defending state champ Fusion opened holiday tournament play last week by beating the same team they defeated to get to state last year: Hayward/Spooner.

Despite holding an 18-3 shots on goal advantage in the first period, the Fusion led just 1-0 thanks to a goal by Hailey Rock, assisted by her linemates, Tara Frey and Sig Dangeur.

Frey added an unassisted goal nine minutes into the second period to make it a 2-0 game, and after the Hurricanes had cut the lead in half, Lily Cranston found the back of the net, unassisted, to extend the Fusion lead to 3-1 after two.

St. Croix Valley made the final 4-1 when Nikki Plunkett came out of the penalty box and took a long pass from Cranston to score on a breakaway.

The Fusion outshot the Hurricanes 48-10.

Friday against the Blizzard, Rock scored seven seconds into the game and the Fusion jumped out to a 5-0 first period lead on their way to an 8-2 win.

"That has to be a record, scoring in seven seconds," Fusion assistant coach Karl Erickson said.

Rock netted her second goal of the game later in the period and Tanis Klingler and Alice Cranston each finished the game with two goals and an assist. Micha Bennett scored her first career varsity goal and Darcy Behringer tallied her first goal of the season while Frey and Lily Cranston dished out two assists each and Heidi VanDell added one.

St. Croix Valley outshot the Blizzard 38-10.

Saturday against the Capital City Cougars, the Fusion fired 23 shots at Cougar goaltender Janna Beilke-Skoug through the first two periods but the game remained scoreless entering the third.

"I told the girls before the game that we would have to have a ton of shots on this goalie if we expect to score on her," Matt Cranston said. "She is very good. I have seen her play many games this summer."

The Fusion finally found the back of the net when VanDell dove across the top of the crease to put away a power play goal at the 5:12 mark of the third. Lily Cranston and Klingler picked up assists. Rock netted her fourth goal of the season on the very next shift to make the final 2-0 and give them a sweep at their own home tournament.

"It's nice to get three wins, but we have a long way to go," Cranston said. "We aren't even close right now, but we are having fun and the girls are working hard."

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