For the first time in four years, the Onalaska and Viroqua cooperative girls hockey teams faced off with one another in a regular season game, renewing an old rivalry at the Onalaska Omni Center, Thursday, Dec 7.
The WIAA sanctioned girls hockey for the first time in 2002 and the two schools were pioneer members of the original seven schools officially sponsoring programs in the state. The two programs had competed against one another for a number of years prior to that on a club-team level. The two teams met on a home-and-home series every year until about 2014, and have only met on occasion since then, during the WIAA state tournament playoffs.
The two teams did not disappoint their fans and local hockey enthusiasts in attendance, with the Hilltoppers skating off with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over the visiting Blackhawks. The outcome evened each team’s season record at 3-3.
Onalaska opened the scoring at the 7:18 mark of the first period on a goal by Jaidyn Groshek, assisted by Mariah McHugh and Kaley Manglitz. The Hilltoppers extended the lead to 2-0 with 9:18 left on the second period clock on a score by Manglitz, with assists from Jessica Culp and Groshek.
VHS senior defense skater Emma Hughes found the back of the net on a power play goal with just 1:12 to go in the second period, slicing the lead in half at 2-1. Hughes’ shot came from the deep right corner, slipping between Hilltopper goalie Clair Bekkum and the right-side post of the Onalaska goal. The score was set up off assists from senior center Emma Kolden and senior forward Perla Grenier (Youth Initiative High School).
Onalaska reclaimed a two-goal advantage at 3-1, with 5:15 left in the third period on a by Culp assisted by Paige Christenson. Viroqua goaltender Ivy Shonka recorded 34 saves against 37 shots in the loss, maintaining her .967 save percentage for the season.
The two teams are scheduled to face off again later in the season at the Viroqua Community Arena Jan. 23. Onalaska area co-op is comprised of athletes from six school districts including Onalaska, Holmen, West Salem, La Crosse Aquinas, La Crosse Central and La Crosse Logan. Viroqua area draws players from Viroqua, Westby, Cashton and Youth Initiative high schools.