The Black River Falls/Tomah girls hockey team celebrates a goal by Baleigh Johnson (center) during the second period of a WIAA sectional semifinal at the Milt Lunda Arena in Black River Falls on Tuesday, Feb. 20. From left to right are Ellie Dolesy, Ellie Steinhoff, Johnson, Savannah Holcomb, Kaitlyn Johnson.

NATE BEIER, For the Chronicle

BLACK RIVER FALLS — The most successful season in Black River Falls/Tomah girls hockey history came to an end Tuesday, Feb. 20.

The Capital City Cougars transformed a turnover into the winning goal with 6 minutes, 27 seconds left in the third period to defeat the Tigers 3-2 in a WIAA sectional semifinal at Milt Lunda Ice Center.

Capital City advanced to Saturday’s sectional final in Madison, while the Tigers finished their season with a 15-8-1 record.

“The seniors are sad to see it end,” Tigers coach Oak Moser said. “We talked about the season, and they know there were a lot of successes, and they’ll come out of here with their heads high.”

Black River Falls/Tomah held a 2-1 lead after scoring two goals in less than three minutes early in the second period. Both were the result of Capital City turnovers deep in its own zone.

Baleigh Johnson pounced on the first turnover at the blue line and skated toward the net undefended before pushing a shot to the right of Capital Cities goaltender Taylor Thornton for a 1-1 tie.

Three minutes later, Savannah Holcomb jumped on a Cougars’ turnover and forced Thornton to make a tough save. Allison Zillmer then fired a rebound shot off the left pipe and into the net for a 2-1 Black River Falls/Tomah lead.

The lead, however, lasted just 18 seconds. The Cougars won the ensuing faceoff and got a breakaway shot against Tigers’ goaltender Josie Mathison. She made the save, but the Tigers couldn’t clear the puck, and Amanda Bauer took advantage of the ensuing chaos in front of the net to slip a shot past Mathison for a 2-2 tie.

It remained deadlocked until 11 minutes into the third period, when Maria Griffiths jumped on a Tigers’ turnover and fired a straight-on shot that found the net for a 3-2 Capital City lead.

Except for a 30-second flurry with two minutes left, Black River Falls/Tomah had difficulty getting scoring chances in the final six minutes. Mathison left the ice with 1:02 left, but the Tigers did never put a shot on goal with the sixth attacker on the ice.

“We had a flurry there in the last couple of minutes left, and I thought we were going to find that loose puck in the slot and bury it,” Moser said.

Capital City appeared to have scored an empty-net goal with 11 seconds, but the score was erased by an offside call. After an extended stoppage punctuated by the ejection of a Capital City coach, the Tigers were awarded a faceoff in front of the Capital City net. However, the Cougars were able to steer the puck toward the right corner and freeze the puck until the final horn.

“It was a pretty even game,” Moser said. “They had a few more opportunities and made one more count than we did.”

Moser gave credit to a Capital City defense that allowed just 16 shots on goal.

“They have good speed on the back end, and they gapped up really tight,” Moser said. “We were moving the puck out of our end and into the neutral zone, and they were gapped right on us, stick on stick.”

It was the final game for seniors Zillmer, Baleigh Johnson, Khloe Spors, Ashley Overlien, Taylor Gular, and Kaitlyn Johnson. Moser said they meant a lot to the program.

“We had a solid group of seniors ... and suddenly we become a young team next year,” Moser said. “We’re going to be young, but we’re going to come at it hard next year, and I think we can get right back to where we were.”

“We talked about the season, and they know there were a lot of successes, and they’ll come out of here with their heads high.” BRF/Tomah coach Oak Moser

Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.