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Fusion cap undefeated BRC season, open playoffs Thursday

After completing a perfect season in the Big Rivers Conference, the St. Croix Valley Fusion girls' hockey team begins its quest for a WIAA State Tournament berth with a regional final game against Superior Thursday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. in Baldwin.

The Fusion completed their clean sweep of BRC opponents with a 2-0 victory over the Eau Claire/Altoona Stars Tuesday night, Feb. 5 at Wildcat Centre. St. Croix Valley completed its six-game conference schedule by outscoring its opponents 17-1.

"Only allowing one goal the entire year in the Big Rivers Conference was pretty impressive," head coach Matt Cranston said. "Like I have said before, we play a tough defensive game. It also doesn't hurt to have a full time goalie coach (Ann Rock) and the two best goalies in the conference."

The Fusion also had two of the top five scorers in the conference -- Maddie Rowe, who was third with 26 points, and Sally Cranston -- who finished fifth with 23.

After a scoreless first period against the Stars, the Fusion got on the board when McKayla Custer found the back of the net, assisted by Andrea Eliason, just over three minutes into the second period.

After a slim 9-8 advantage in shots on goal in the first period, the Fusion pounded 19 shots at the Stars' goalie in the second while allowing just four.

"We were a bit sluggish in the first period so we made a few changes and moved some players around to a create spark," Cranston said.

St. Croix Valley kept up the pressure in the third period, outshooting the Stars 13-4, with Sally Cranston netting the only goal of the period, assisted by Micha Bennett and Heather Shew, to make the final 2-0.

Senior goaltender Kalli Armagost stopped all 16 shots she faced to record the shutout.

Thursday's regional final against Superior gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Baldwin United Civic Center. A St. Croix Valley win would send the Fusion to the sectional semifinals against either Hudson or the Burnett Blizzard Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Centre.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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