CHIPPEWA FALLS — The Chippewa Falls/Menomonie girls hockey is looking to take some positive steps as they look to end a long conference losing streak in the Big Rivers Conference.
Although the end score didn’t show it the team put took steps forward in a 4-0 loss to the St. Croix Valley Fusion on Thursday evening at Chippewa Area Ice Arena.
“It’s a step in the right direction for us conference wise,” Chi-Hi/Menomonie coach Tony Menard said.
St. Croix Valley held a 2-0 lead until adding an empty net goal with around a minute left in the game and a fourth goal 30 seconds later.
“We did a lot of good stuff defensive zone wise,” Menard said. “I know the shots don’t show that but they’re a good team where they get two, three shots at a time. I think we did a pretty good job of keeping (shots) to the outside for the most part.”
Chi-Hi/Menomonie (6-11-2, 0-5) held the Fusion scoreless through most of the first period before a penalty put St. Croix Valley on the power play where a Juneau Paulsen goal got the scoring going in the 13th minute.
Bella Rasmussen added a second-period goal with one minute, 20 seconds to go in the period to extend St. Croix Valley’s lead.
“In this one we just played real steady,” St. Croix Valley coach Matt Cranston said. “We rolled three lines, so everyone was rested. We just outlasted them. That was the game plan.”
Chi-Hi/Menomonie just wasn’t able to get the quality shots it needed to threaten St. Croix Valley (13-4-2, 3-1-1).
“Looking at the shots for us we were trying to go into it knowing we definitely struggled offensively last game against these guys, so we really wanted to focus on and try to figure out how we can get six shots a period,” Menard said.
Chi-Hi/Menomonie got the 18 shots it was looking for but still had a 47-18 deficit on shots on goal.
Haley Frank stopped 43 shots in goal for Chi-Hi/Menomonie.
There were a couple of breakaways and quality looks where Chi-Hi/Menomonie was in position to even or narrow the score. Sidney Polzin found herself alone 11 minutes into the first period but her shot went wide of the goalie missing out on the team’s best chance to score.
“We had some opportunities. We also had a couple breakaways where we ended up missing the net,” Menard said. “We probably could have had a chance for five more shots, who knows what would have happened then.”
Menard said the team needs to be able to corral loose pucks to find more success offensively. St. Croix Valley had a tendency to gather possession and keep control of the puck limiting Chi-Hi/Menomonie’s scoring opportunities.
“One thing we really got to focus on is making sure we are aggressive to loose pucks. Sometimes we get to the loose puck and we end up just tying with them or we’re just a half step behind getting there,” Menard said. “We got to find a way to win those puck battles and hopefully winning those battles will create some more offense for us.”
Chi-Hi/Menomonie has faced some adversity lately with injuries piling up for the team. Menard said he is looking for a couple injured players to return next week giving them a few games of action before the postseason begins. Against St. Croix Valley the team’s depth was hurt, pushing forward Megan Klass over to a defensive position for the first time.
Even with challenges affecting the team’s depth Chi-Hi/Menomonie has to move forward and that means a battle with Wisconsin Valley Union on Saturday in Marshfield. Menard said Chi-Hi/Menomonie matches up well and in a matchup of team’s with strong goalie play the team with the most shots will likely come away with a victory.
“We know we are going to have to get more shots than we had tonight in order to eventually have success in that game,” Menard said of Saturday’s matchup. “If we go in there and we end up outshooting them in that game I think it will come out in our favor.”