BLACK RIVER FALLS—The Black River Falls-Tomah girls hockey co-op has reached an important milestone: jayvee players.
Coach Oak Moser greeted 29 skaters from five different high schools as practice began for the 2019-20 season. He acknowledged it’s a challenge finding junior varsity games in a sport that has just 27 other teams, but he’s happy that the Black River Falls-Tomah co-op has achieved one of its long-term goals.
“I didn’t know we would have that many − they just started coming out of the woodwork,” Moser said. “I hope it’s because they’re excited to become part of a high school program. It means more people can play more hockey.”
The Tigers open their season Friday, Nov. 29 with a pair of contests against River Falls and Green Bay East at Baldwin. They are coming off an 8-14-3 season in which they scored only 1.5 goals per game. They stayed competitive because of first-team all-state goaltender Josie Mathison, who’s back for her senior year. She has received all-state recognition for three straight seasons.
Moser described Mathison as a technically sound and mentally tough netminder.
“Her technique is solid,” Moser said. “She’s patient, and she’s consistent.”
Unlike last season, the Tigers will have a backup goaltender thanks to freshman Isabel Blackdeer, who will get experience at the jayvee level.
Mathison will be supported by a defense that brings back all its starters from last season. The returning letterwinners are senior Ellie Dolesy, junior Jenna Hausman and sophomores Sierra Steele, Hannah Long and Annelise Swiggum.
“Youbuild a team from the defense out,” Moser said. “I had a coach tell me that if you can do only one thing in hockey, it’s break out the puck.”
Moser is optimistic the Tigers will deliver more offensive firepower than last year. Three of their four leading scorers − senior Reghan Yourell and juniors Ellie Steinhoff and Savannah Holcomb − are back.
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Moser is looking for an offense that “work(s) hard to get more garbage goals around the net.” He said last year’s experience will help.
“It’s my impression that you can see an impact in their maturity level and how they approach the game,” he said.
Moser also likes his team’s depth.
“We won’t be the fastest team, but we’ll be solid, and we’ll run three strong lines,” he said.
The rest of the varsity/jayvee roster includes:
- Seniors—Nikki L’Amie, Grace Engebretson, Samantha Hansen, Minnie Lonetree, Nikita Nielsen.
- Juniors—Ashley Courtright, Elizabeth Jorgensen, Maddie Stewart, Brenna Roush.
- Sophomores—Lexie Hagen, Bridgett Canfield, Mia Handly, Natalie Rave.
- Freshmen—Courtney Magnuson, Delainey Johnson, Scotlyn Baird, Hannah Lane, Leah Reetz.
The co-op also includes players from Sparta, Melrose-Mindoro and Neillsville. The team practices and plays its home games at Milt Lunda Memorial Arena in Black River Falls.
Moser said the Tigers play a challenging schedule.
“Our schedule is loaded with top-end teams,” he said. “When someone smacks us in the mouth, we see how they respond.”
The Tigers play as an independent, and Moser said the team hasn’t established a goal for a set number of wins.
“Every individual player has a goal to get one percent better every day,” Moser said. “When the playoffs come, we want to be playing our best hockey and go deep in the sectional.”
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.