The Viroqua High School cooperative girls hockey team served notice to the rest of the Badger Conference that they indeed will be a force to be reckoned with this season, as the Blackhawks skated to a thrilling 3-2 victory on the road, Saturday, Dec. 16, over the Madison Area Metro-Lynx. Metro-Lynx is a six-team Madison area co-op comprised of players from Middleton, Madison Edgewood, Madison West, Madison Memorial, Mt. Horeb and Verona high schools.
The David vs. Goliath style victory keeps the Blackhawks, now 2-0 in league play, in a virtual tie with Rock County (Beloit area) and Cap City (Sun Prairie) for the top spot in the Badger Conference.
The Blackhawks (2-0 Badger and 4-2 over-all) controlled the game from beginning to end, scoring two goals in the first period and built a 3-0 lead after two periods before holding off the Lynx in the final period to secure the win.
Erin Simonson (Westby High School) gave the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead, on her team-leading seventh goal of the season, just 2:31 into the game. The score came as the freshman forward secured the puck, drove down the low slot and powered a wrist shot under the Lynx goaltender Lynn Parker.
Emma Kolden made it 2-0 Viroqua at 13:11 of the opening period with an amazing individual effort. The senior captain’s goal was the result of an aggressive forecheck as she stepped between a pair of Lynx defenders at the Lynx blue-line and intercepted a pass. Kolden then drove wide to the left and then back to the right, toward the goal deking Parker off her feet. Kolden also lost her skates but recovered in time to tip the puck into the back of the net from her knees on her back-hand.
Senior goaltender Ivy Shonka kept the Lynx off the scoreboard with a six-save effort in the period, while the Hawks converted on 2 of 8 scoring chances.
Junior forward Maia Barendregt gave the Blackhawks a 3-0 cushion with a goal midway through the second period, off an assist from sophomore Kelsey Shaner coming 7:58 into the period. Shaner set up the play controlling the puck in neutral ice, driving down the right side-boards deep in the corner before delivering a perfect centering pass to Barendregt, who drove the puck into the back of the Lynx goal on a perfectly executed one-timer.
The Blackhawks created 10 shot opportunities in the middle period while Shonka was 11 for 11 in save chances.
The Lynx desperately tried to climb back into the game, scoring a goal just 30 seconds into the third period and made it 3-2 at the 11:53 mark, but Shonka and the Blackhawk defense held on for the win, fending off a furious comeback effort by the Lynx in the final minute.
Shonka finished the game with 23 saves, while Metro-Lynx goalie Lynn Parker stopped 21 of 24 Viroqua shots on goal.
“We have had a tendency of coming out slow in the first periods of games this year, but the girls came out flying in this one,” said coach Andy Rogers. “I think they learned and grew from the Onalaska loss last week where we started slowly. I knew they could play at a higher level and they really put it together in this game. We knew it would be tough in the third period, we are not used to being in the position of having to protect a three-goal lead against a really strong opponent. The girls finished strong though…it was a great brand of hockey and that is what we are looking for.”
The Blackhawks face a tough task this week traveling to Sun-Prairie to battle Cap-City (another Madison area co-op), Friday, Dec. 22, before hosting their first home game of the season versus Rock County (Beloit Area Co-op) in a 3 p.m. face-off at the Viroqua Community Arena, Saturday, Dec. 23.