EAU CLAIRE — The Chi-Hi/Menomonie girls hockey team faced some of the best the state has to offer on Wednesday, but ultimately came up empty handed.
After falling to the Warbirds/Beaver Dam co-op in the morning, Chi-Hi/Menomonie dropped its second contest of the Eau Claire holiday tournament against Fox Cities 3-1 at Hobbs Ice Center.
The Stars scored two goals in the second period, which proved to be the difference in their victory. Chi-Hi/Menomonie goalie Caroline O’Dell kept her team in the game with save after save, but the offense wasn’t able to match Fox Cities.
“I think we got solid play in net out of both goaltenders today,” Chi-Hi/Menomonie coach Tony Menard said. “It just would have been nice to see more production in the offensive zone. We had several opportunities for scoring chances, and we fell short on that end.”
The Stars didn’t waste much time before scoring the opening goal. Alaina Schauf knocked a shot past O’Dell just over a minute into the game to put Fox Cities ahead 1-0.
Chi-Hi/Menomonie shored up its defense for the rest of the first period, but couldn’t get its offense going. The team managed just two shots on goal in the opening 17 minutes.
Fox Cities widened its lead midway through the second period when Lauryn Hull scored a goal with 11:06 remaining in the period. She added a second goal about eight minutes later, this time on a power play to increase the Stars’ advantage to 3-0.
Chi-Hi/Menomonie had a quick answer for Hull’s second goal. Makayla Hendrickson blasted a shot from long range into the back of the net to get her team on the board with 2:51 to go until the intermission.
“We did a good job initially of getting the puck low, getting an opportunity (to score). It didn’t happen, sent it back out and found the open (player) and Mak put a good shot on net for us and it went home,” Menard said.
That was one of Chi-Hi/Menomonie’s few chances in the second period, as the team only registered five shots on goal.
Chi-Hi/Menomonie wasn’t overwhelmed by pressure put on by Fox Cities, but it did struggle to keep the puck as it moved up the ice into the offensive zone.
“We were struggling initially to break the puck out, in both games. We were trying to find ways to get the puck in the zone so that we could get off the ice and get a line change. So that kind of led us to a lack of a forecheck in our offensive zone,” Menard said.
Neither team was able to find the net in the third period, although Chi-Hi/Menomonie had a handful of chances to pull closer. Fox Cities snuffed them out though, and the Stars held on for the win.
“If we get a couple of those to go in the net I think it’s a different game,” Menard said. “That’s reassuring. You’ve got two teams in the top 10 and you go out and play two-goal games.”
Fox Cities is an honorable mention in this week’s Wisconsin Prep Hockey state coaches poll, while Warbirds/Beaver Dam is No. 6. Chi-Hi/Menomonie goalkeeper Haley Frank made 53 saves in the team’s 2-0 loss to Warbirds/Beaver Dam. O’Dell made 33 saves against Fox Cities.
The holiday tournament has added to Chi-Hi/Menomonie’s tough schedule, in which their three Big Rivers Conference opponents make up the top three spots in the state rankings.
“You know you’ve got to come in—especially in January and February—and play good hockey. I think we’re getting there, and if we get a couple of these pucks to go in there and get some confidence I think it’s going to be a fun stretch for us going down to the playoffs,” Menard said.
Chi-Hi/Menomonie (1-9-1) faces Appleton United on Thursday at 11 a.m.