With the loss of just two seniors from last year’s team and with the addition of six talented freshman to this year’s squad, the prospects for the 2017-18 Viroqua High School girls hockey seem very bright.
The team motto for the season, “We can and we will,” also would seem to indicate the team is brimming with confidence. And why not. The Blackhawks return a solid core of seven talented seniors this season, led by goaltender Ivy Shonka, defense skaters Emma Hughes, Lydia Noble and Taylor Menzynski, and forwards Emma Kolden (last year’s leading scorer 17 goals and 4 assists), Alice Blake and Naomi Schroeder. Kolden and Shonka have been selected as captains for this season, with Hughes and Blake as assistant captains. Juniors Mai Berendregt, last year’s second leading scorer (10 goals and 7 assists), and Perla Grenier, along with sophomores Allisandra Dehlin and Kelsey Shaner round out the group of 11 returning varsity skaters.
According to head coach Andy Rogers, “Goal tending, overall team speed, senior leadership, highly competitive spirit and team chemistry look to be the strengths of this year’s team.”
“This shall be an exciting season,” said Rogers, who is in his 11th season at the helm of the VHS girls program. “This should be a very memorable year…looking to be a front-runner in our conference.”
Shonka returns for her fourth season patrolling the front of the net for the Blackhawks defense, having been recognized both statewide and across the country for her work between the pipes. At the end of last season Shonka was named a finalist for the Jesse Vetter Award, recognizing the top female goal tenders in Wisconsin. Last spring Shonka competed for the Wisconsin Selects in a national tournament held in Troy, Michigan, and later last spring was selected by coaches as “The Outstanding Goalkeeper” at America’s Showcase Classic held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Barendregt also played for the Wisconsin Selects as a forward.
The Blackhawks will have the luxury this year of having a quality backup goalie in sophomore Abbey Severson, who played along-side Shonka for Team Wisconsin this past summer.
Looking back to last season, the Blackhawks were competitive in every game despite playing a schedule primarily against co-op teams from the large metropolitan areas around the state. The Blackhawks got on a roll midway through the year, reeling off an eight-game winning streak, the longest in program history, since the 2002 Blackhawks team which reeled off 12 straight wins on their way to an appearance in the first-ever WIAA girls state tournament championship game.
The Blackhawks will be “road warriors,” especially early this season, with 14 of their first 16 games to be played on enemy-ice. The Hawks will host Beloit Dec. 23 and Stoughton Jan. 9, before returning to home ice to finish the season with six consecutive games beginning with Middleton Jan. 20. The Blackhawks renew their local rivalry with Onalaska, playing on the Hilltoppers’ home ice Dec. 7.
As a special feature this season, the Blackhawks will host the Women’s National Hockey team in an exhibition game at the Viroqua Community Arena Dec. 3.
Rogers will be assisted this season by Brent Welch and Hans Eisenbeis. The Viroqua-hosted co-op is comprised of athletes from Westby, Cashton, Youth Initiative and Viroqua High Schools.