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Fusion knocked out by Stars

The Eau Claire Area Stars scored two goals in a three-minute span of the third period to erase a 3-2 St. Croix Valley Fusion lead and defeat the Fusion, 4-3, in a WIAA Section 1 girls hockey semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire.

The Stars had tied the game, 2-2, earlier in the period before the Fusion took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Maddie Schultz with just over ten minutes remaining. But the Stars scored just 11 seconds later to tie the game and got the game-winner 2:39 later off the stick of future UW-River Falls Falcon Abigail Stow, her second of the game, to pull out the victory.

The second-seeded Stars went on to beat top-seed Hudson, 6-1, in Saturday's sectional final to advance to this weekend's WIAA State Tournament in Madison.

"The girls played a great game. I was very proud of them," Fusion head coach Matt Cranston said. "That team is loaded with talent. We worked for days on a specific game plan for this game and the girls did exactly what we expected, unfortunately we were one goal short."

The Fusion got on the board first when Lilly Accola grabbed a loose puck in center ice, skated it into the Stars' zone and ripped a hard wrist shot over the left shoulder of Stow's younger sister Naomi.

Eau Claire's Ava Kison tied things up three minutes later but the Fusion regained the lead when Kamryn Jacobs made a great move in front and buried a shot for an unassisted goal at the 13:26 mark.

After a scoreless second period, Big Rivers Conference co-Player of the Year Abigail Stow scored her first goal to make it a 2-2 game 5:47 into the third. Fusion senior Maddie Schultz wasted no time as she took a beautiful breakout pass from Katy Anderson, skated over the blue line and ripped a slap shot over the right shoulder of Naomi Stow to retake the lead. Jacobs also earned an assist on the play.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Kison tied it for the Stars just 11 seconds later and Abigail Stow got the go-ahead goal with 7:43 left.

Cranston called a time out with 1:25 remaining and goalie Sydney Seeley remained on the bench for an extra attacker when play resumed, but the Fusion couldn't get the tying goal despite several late scoring chances.

Seeley finished with 30 saves as the Stars outshot the Fusion, 34-21.

"Great game, great season," Cranston said. "Sydney was great in goal for us tonight."

The Fusion ended the season ranked No. 3 in the state behind Hudson and Eau Claire with a record of 18-8-0. The Stars will take a record of 21-3-0 int their state tournament semifinal against the Central Wisconsin Storm (D.C. Everest co-op) Friday, March 2. The Cap City Cougars (Sun Prairie co-op) and Warbirds (Fond du Lac co-op) will meet in the other semifinal.

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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