For the first time in the last three-plus seasons, someone other than Ivy Shonka defended the goal for the Viroqua cooperative girls hockey team. The Blackhawks were on the road, a place they have been in 12 of their first 13 games this year, when coach Andy Rogers elected to give sophomore Abbey Severson her first varsity start in goal versus the Beloit Area Rock County Fury, the top team in the Badger Conference this season.
Severson responded to the challenge Jan. 2 with an impressive 50-save effort, but the Blackhawks offense struggled and became the fifth Badger Conference shutout victim of the Fury this season in a 3-0 loss. The Fury, an eight-team co-op from southeastern Wisconsin, has dominated play outscored their Badger conference opponents this season by a 33-1 margin and improved their conference season record to 6-0 and 12-2-2 in all games with the win.
Shonka, who had started every game since her freshman season debut, has played brilliantly this season, recording four shutouts and a .929 save average, allowing just 22 goals against 309 shots, but Rogers said, “I just wanted to give Abby an opportunity and she played really well.” Rogers knew going into the season that the Hawks had the luxury of having two quality goaltenders, with Severson having played alongside Shonka each as members of Team Wisconsin this past summer.
Severson and the Blackhawks defense kept the game scoreless through two periods before the Fury took a 1-0 lead 4:29 into the third period, converting a power play opportunity with just 12 seconds left in the PP. The Fury capitalized on the momentum and made it 2-0 just eight seconds later. The score stayed that way until the conference leaders made the final 3-0, scoring again with just 12 seconds left in the contest.
The final score was an improvement for the third-place Blackhawks’ recent 6-0 home-ice loss to the Fury Dec. 23.
Viroqua vs. Somerset, Jan. 5
The Blackhawks stayed on the road later in the week traveling to Somerset, where they dropped a 4-0 decision to the Western Wisconsin Stars.
The road-weary Hawk skaters allowed single goals in the first and second periods and two more in the third. Three of the four enemy scores came when the Blackhawks were skating on a power play.
Shonka was challenged from beginning to end, and according to Rogers, “Ivy faced at least 10 breakaways throughout the game. That team (Stars) skated through and out-muscled our defensemen all game.” Shonka finished the contest with 18 saves against 22 shots on net. The Blackhawks offense created just 12 shots on the Somerset goal with Caitlyn Erickson recording the shutout.
The Western Wisconsin Stars (6-5-1) are a five-team co-op made up of skaters from Somerset, New Richmond, Amery, St. Croix Falls and Osceola, playing nearly half of their games against Minnesota schools.
Viroqua vs. Chippewa Falls/Menomonie, Jan. 6
The Blackhawks stayed on the road over the weekend for a Saturday afternoon face off at Chippewa Falls, versus the Chippewa Falls/Menomonie Area co-op. The Blackhawks, weary from a long travel week, lost the non-conference game by an 8-3 final.
Severson got her second start of the season, allowing four first period goals against 14 shots. Shonka came on in relief and recorded seven saves over the final two-plus periods, while yielding four more goals.
The host team jumped out to a 6-0 lead before Emma Kolden put the Blackhawks on the board with a power play goal, assisted by Erinn Simonson at 11:49 of the second period. The Blackhawks cut the deficit to 6-2 at 13:47 of the period when Perla Grenier found the back of the net off an assist from Maia Barendregt.
Chippewa stretched the lead to 8-2 with a pair of goals early in the final period before Kolden answered with an un-assisted goal at 10:56 in the final frame. Haley Frank recorded 21 saves against 24 Viroqua shots on goal. Severson and Shonka combined for 17 saves against 25 Chippewa shots.