The St. Croix Valley Fusion won back-to-back games at an invitational in Baldwin this weekend, winning 7-3 against the Black River Falls Tigers on Friday, Nov. 24 and 4-3 against the reigning state …
The St. Croix Valley Fusion won back-to-back games at an invitational in Baldwin this weekend, winning 7-3 against the Black River Falls Tigers on Friday, Nov. 24 and 4-3 against the reigning state champion Green Bay Ice Bears on Saturday, Nov. 25.
The Fusion put on a clinic on Friday against the Tigers, outshooting them to the tune of a massive 58 shots on goal to just 15 by the Tigers. Head Coach Matt Cranston described Game 1 best.
“We played very well defensively and put a lot of shots on their goalie as you can see in the stats. When you outshoot someone that badly, you usually win by a couple,” Cranston said.
Freshman Jane Volgren and senior Kendall Sundby both had standout performances on Friday. Volgren got a hat trick scoring one in the first period and two in the second while also chipping in an assist in the third. Sundby stayed heavily involved throughout as well with three assists in the second and a goal in the third.
It was a great game for the Fusion, but they knew the Ice Bears were going to be the real challenge of the weekend.
Game 2 started opposite of how Game 1 ended against the Tigers as the Fusion only had one shot on goal after the first 10:00 of period one. That all changed when Morgan Kivel caught a pass behind the defense and took off on what turned out to be a breakaway goal that put the Fusion up 1-0 with 5:00 remaining in the period.
The scoring wasn’t over though, as less than 2:00 later a fight for the puck in front of the Fusion’s net ended up with an Ice Bears goal to even the score. With time about to expire, another battle in front of St. Croix Valley’s net almost resulted in another Green Bay score, but the Fusion were able to clear the puck just before the buzzer.
Things tightened up for both squads in the second period. With 8:00 remaining, the Fusion were still trailing 10-5 in shots on goal, but things heated up quickly. In the next 2:30, St. Croix Valley really started pushing and evened that tally at 10-10. It was a defensive period almost all the way through, but with 4:16 remaining the Fusion increased that shots on goal number to 11 on a score by junior Alexis Ralston to take a 2-1 lead.
With time about to expire, the Bears pushed the goal hard and tried to force one in, but Fusion Goalie Anna Woolley held and managed to cover it up. The period ended with a dead heat in the shots on goal department at 14 all.
Midway through the third period, the Fusion increased their lead on Kivel’s second goal of the game, this time assisted by Sundby. That 3-1 score didn’t last long as the Bay Area Ice Bears scored again quickly to bring it to 3-2.
St. Croix Valley kept playing their up-tempo brand of hockey and with 2:52 remaining in regulation, they added on an insurance goal to make it 4-2. That’s when Green Bay pulled their goalie and went to work pressing the Fusion’s goal with everything they had, taking shot after shot while keeping the puck pinned on St. Croix Valley’s side of the rink. It paid off for them, and with under 2:00 remaining they scored and got within one at 4-3.
That was the end of it though, and the Fusion held on to take a big victory against the best team in the state from last year.
This sort of success is nothing new for St. Croix Valley as they are looking for their fifth consecutive conference championship this season. Even though they haven’t been to state in seven years, or won it since their three-peat of state championship wins from 2008-2011, the Fusion have built a winning culture, and they believe in this team. Assistant Coach Jon Zevenbergen says this doesn’t happen by accident.
“Last year we graduated two key contributors, we have two freshmen that come up, and we've got two seniors this year that'll be key contributors that we’ll have to replace next year. Everything is a growth pattern for all of us,” Zevenbergen said. “It's also something where we work hard with our JV team. We make sure that we have the whole team of varsity coaches on the JV bench, and everything's about teaching, training and developing. It’s consistency and structured hockey, but we also have talent all the way through.”
Beating Green Bay was obviously a huge win for the Fusion. It’s a feather in their cap for a team with postseason aspirations, and it comes from working on the fundamentals, playing their game and playing up to their own potential.
“The biggest thing we talked about before the game was if you don't play good defensive D zone coverage, it's not going to work. Today, the whole team did that part,” Zevenbergen said. “Winning key face offs and scoring goals is one thing, but no matter what the D zone coverage today was a difference maker. We held them under 20 shots, that’s a pretty big deal.”
With all the positive takeaways from a 2-0 sweep of the invitational, Zevenbergen says there are still things the Fusion are going to be working on to hit that peak potential.
“Everything's a work in progress. As far as the offensive zone coverage and players getting used to playing with each other in D zone, we've talked about it a lot early in the season, but that's how you win early,” Zevenbergen said. “So, there's a lot of things that way, but no matter what, the power play and the penalty kill are the two things that we have to work on all the time.”
Sundby, who has played on the varsity team for several years, thinks this is the strongest the team has been in a while.
“I feel like we played really good today. Our defense held strong, and our goalie played pretty well. We struggled a little bit yesterday because they were a little bit slower of a team. We're a high pace team, so we like to play high pace teams, but I still feel like we stepped up and played our game,” Sundby said. “I think this might be our strongest in the past couple years. So, hopefully we're going to be able to put it together this year and blow people out.”
With these two wins, the Fusion advance to 2-1 on the season in non-conference play just ahead of Big Rivers competition which starts this Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. when St. Croix Valley will host the CFM Sabers in Baldwin.