The memories are anything but faint. The sting is still very much felt. However, the current seniors on the Central/Logan boys hockey team have translated it into motivation.
“This group of seniors only won three games, two years ago as sophomores,” Red Rangers coach Greg Sears said. “We’re finally getting to where I wanted the program to get to. The kids are good kids, and they’ve bought into each other.”
The Red Rangers have improved mightily since finishing 3-18-2 in the 2010-11 season. Central/Logan has already won 12 games — one more win than the last two seasons combined — and has proven itself against some of the top teams in the confernce.
“As a senior class, everyone has just been pulling together,” said Red Rangers senior Colton Tydrich, who is leading the team in goals (24), assists (15) and points (39).
The Red Rangers (12-9, 3-4 MVC) have transformed into a legitimate team in the MVC. They won’t be celebrating their first-ever conference title when the regular season concludes, but with Thursday’s 2-0 victory over the Viroqua co-op, Central/ Logan guaranteed its first winning season since 2003-04 when it finished 14-6-1.
“This is just a huge season for us,” Red Rangers sophomore goalie Brendan Londergan said. “It’s moving the program forward.”
The season began in similar fashion to the previous two seasons when the Red Rangers stumbled out to an 0-3 start.
But in its first MVC contest of the season, Central/Logan flipped a switch.
The Red Rangers defeated Tomah 3-1 in the midst of a three-game winning streak to climb back to .500.
It was the first loss of the season for the Timberwolves after they began with four straight wins.
Central/Logan’s early-season winning streak was derailed by Onalaska, but the 3-1 loss to one of the MVC’s perennial powerhouses was nothing to lose focus over.
“When it comes to high school kids, 90 percent of this game is mental,” said Sears, who is in his third season as the Red Rangers’ coach. “Anything can happen if they believe in each other, and that’s what’s been happening pretty much all year.”
The Red Rangers took down the MVC’s top team in the Aquinas co-op on Tuesday night at Green Island Ice Arena.
Tydrich scored twice, the second goal coming on a penalty shot early in the third period, and Londergan was nearly perfect as the Red Rangers snapped a two-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory. Londergan has a .900 save percentage this season and has allowed one goal in his previous two starts.
“It was a big win for us,” Tydrich said following Tuesday’s victory over the Avalanche. “It was a big boost for our team’s confidence.”
The Red Rangers will close out the season Tuesday night as hosts to Sparta/Mauston (1-20-1, 0-6 MVC).
ONA ROLL: The Onalaska boys hockey team has finished atop the MVC in each of the past six seasons, including three outright championships (’08, ’11, ’12).
The Hilltoppers, who guaranteed themselves at least a share of the MVC title with Friday night’s 6-5 overtime win over Tomah, have combined to go 40-7-1 against conference foes over those six seasons.
The Aquinas co-op, which was recently informed that it will not be eligible for postseason play because of the Jablonski Rule (it is appealing the decision), can still finish with a share of its first-ever conference title with a win on Tuesday against the Timberwolves.
NETSEEKER: Tomah’s Tim Nicksic leads the MVC with 30 goals and 51 total points. The junior, who dedicated his summer to hockey, had a goal and three assists in Friday night’s overtime loss to Onalaska.