Still No. 1
The defending state champion St. Croix Valley Fusion girls' hockey team remained undefeated with a pair of big victories last week, 7-3 over Big Rivers Conference foe Chippewa Falls Tuesday and 4-1 over 2008 the 2008 state champion Central Wisconsin Storm Saturday.
Saturday's game featured the top two teams in the state with the No. 1 Fusion hosting the No. 2 Storm, and was a rematch of last year's state semifinal, a 2-1 double overtime victory for the Fusion.
"We knew we had to play well to beat this team, and that's what we did," head coach Matt Cranston said. "We moved the puck well offensively and played solid defensively."
The Fusion came out flying and took a 1-0 lead when Tanis Klingler buried a wrist shot from the top of the slot just 2:46 into the game. Tara Frey and Heather Shew assisted on the goal.
Shew picked up her second assist of the game on a power play goal by Nikki Plunkett just over four minutes later to give the Fusion a 2-0 lead after one.
The Strom scored the only goal of the second period to cut the Fusion lead in half, but St. Croix Valley dominated the third period.
Lily Cranston redirected a shot by Darcy Behringer into the net to increase the Fusion lead to 3-1 less than three minutes into the period. Alice Cranston also assisted on the goal.
Lily Cranston made the final 4-1 with her second goal of the game, assisted by Heidi Van Dell, at the 10:56 mark of the third.
The Fusion outshot the Storm 20-4 in the third period and 32-12 for the game.
"It was a nice win," Matt Cranston said. "(Storm coach) Denny Drake is a good friend of mine and a class act. Several of our girls play summer hockey with the Storm girls. The Storm is a very classy program, from the parents to the coaching staff."
Last Tuesday against Chippewa Falls, the Cranston sisters accounted for four of the Fusion's seven goals in a 7-3 victory.
Alice and Lily Cranston each had two goals and an assist and Plunkett and Hailey Rock had a goal and assist each while Shew rounded out the scoring for St. Croix Valley. Klingler and Behringer added one assist each in the win.
The score was tied, 1-1, at the end of one with Rock accounting for the Fusion's only goal. Alice Cranston scored both of her goals in the second period but the score was still tied, 3-3. Lily Cranston netted what turned out to be the game-winner at the 2:16 mark of the third. Shew and Plunkett added goals before Lily Cranston's second goal of the game at the 11:12 mark made the final 7-3.
The challenges continue for the Fusion, now 8-0-1 overall, when they travel to North St. Paul Tuesday night and compete in the top bracket at the Schwan Holiday Cup in Blaine, Minn., Dec. 28-30.
Matt Cranston said the team is focused on its next opponent, North St. Paul.
"This will be a tough game," he said. "North St. Paul could be the best team we have played this year."
The Fusion, a cooperative team consisting of players from River Falls, Baldwin-Woodville, St. Croix Central, Elmwood and Spring Valley high schools, hasn't lost a regular season game in nearly two-and-a-half years.