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West Salem State Hockey

West Salem/Bangor players acknowledge their fans after losing to Eau Claire Memorial 6-2 in the WIAA State Boys Hockey quartefinal game at the Alliant Energy Center Thursday.

Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune

MADISON — With consecutive trips to the WIAA state boys hockey tournament under his belt, Eric Borre knows the bar has been raised for the West Salem/Bangor program.

The fourth-year Panthers coach also knows that while significant steps have been taken, there are several remaining before the team possibly plays for a state championship.

Attainable steps, he says.

“We told our kids just now, ‘You set the bar. You really did.’ Our senior class, two-time sectional champions. That is an on-the-ice thing, but off the ice you set the bar on how we are going to expect things to be from a teammate standpoint,” said Borre, whose team was knocked off 6-2 by Eau Claire Memorial in Thursday’s state quarterfinals.

“How they handled themselves on a daily basis. There are so many awesome things they did. No, it didn’t necessarily end the way we wanted it to, but there is zero to be ashamed off. Zero to keep our heads down for. So many positives can come from this thing.”

The Panthers are 82-23-1 in Borre’s four years as coach, and have made the only two state tournament appearances under his — and his staff of Bob Gorniak, Shaun Borre and Michael Berghefer — guidance.

Replacing one of the state’s best forwards in University of Wisconsin recruit Jack Gorniak, along with the team’s second-leading scorer in Joey Oldendorf (11 goals, 21 assists, 32 points) and third top gun in Jake Whitbeck (12-12-24) won’t be easy.

But the experience — and confidence — the team gained on Thursday can only help in the future.

“We wanted to put some pressure on them right away and we knew what they were capable of and wanted to dictate the pace a little bit,” Borre said of his team, which outplayed second-seeded Eau Claire Memorial in the first 10 minutes.

“I think we shocked them a little bit, we surprised them how we handled ourselves early on. It is a 6-2 game, but they scored with a minute to go … but we never quit. Maybe if we get one in early, you never know.”

Gorniak, who along with Matt Bigley, scored for West Salem/Bangor, was disappointed the team’s state-tournament run ended after just one game, but knows it was a building block. He also knows he will remember far more than goals, assists and checks.

“It was more off the ice stuff; we had such good team bonding,” Gorniak said. “There wasn’t any other team that has as good of team bonding as us and I will always remember that and be thankful for that.”


Sports Editor

Jeff Brown is the Sports Editor for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at (608) 791-8403.