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Prep Boys Hockey Division 1 State: Defense anchors Chi-Hi's push to Madison
Prep Boys Hockey Division 1 State | Chi-Hi Cardinals

Prep Boys Hockey Division 1 State: Defense anchors Chi-Hi's push to Madison

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Chi-Hi boys hockey vs Hudson in Wisconsin Rapids 2-29-20

Chi-Hi's Tyler Bohland moves the puck up the ice during the Division 1 sectional championship game against Hudson last Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids.

Longtime Chi-Hi boys hockey coach Scott Parker appreciates good defense.

A defenseman during his playing days, Parker’s teams have always been built around keeping opponents’ pucks out of the net.

Chi-Hi (23-4) has been doing that at a high level down the stretch entering Friday’s Division 1 state semifinal matchup against Verona (23-4) at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

The Cardinals have allowed just three goals thus far in the playoffs, one apiece in victories over Eau Claire North, Wausau West and Hudson. Dating back into the regular season, Chi-Hi has not allowed more than three goals in a game since a 4-1 loss at Wausau West on Jan. 21 and has only done so twice this season.

Credit for that can be divvied up between the team’s goaltending and defensemen. Sophomore netminder Bridger Fixmer stepped into a tough position this year, replacing four-year starting goaltender Jaden Hoople after Hoople earned first team all-state honors from the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association last year. But Fixmer has been up to the task in net, sporting a 19-4 record in 23 games including a 1.51 goals against average with a 94.6 save percentage. Fixmer showed ability in limited playing time as a freshman but has jumped into action and played at a high level for a program making its first trip to state since 1999.

“We pride ourselves on pushing teams wide and making sure they’re not getting through, so our backcheck is important,” Parker said of the defense. “Our communication — picking up guys on a 2-on-2, who’s got who and not lot letting them cross us up a lot. Defensively giving Bridger some protection is the key.”

Fixmer has made at least 23 saves in each of the three playoff victories and was a first team All-Big Rivers Conference selection at the end of the regular season.

In front of Fixmer the Cardinals sport a veteran group of defenders that have more than done their part to make life not so tough for the sophomore netminder.

“The defense has been really good this year,” Fixmer said. “We’ve got a lot of older guys who are really experienced and they help me out a lot.”

Seniors Blake Trippler, Tyler Bohland and Cole Bowe, juniors Drew Post and AJ Schemenauer and sophomores Carsten Reeg and Drake Bowe have all shown their ability as the group’s depth has been tested at times. Bohland missed the start of the year with a thumb injury and Cole Bowe has been limited to power-play duty in recent games due to a hamstring injury.

Trippler is a three-year player for the Cardinals, Bohland is playing the best hockey of his life according to Parker and Cole Bowe scored the go-ahead goal in Saturday’s 2-1 sectional final victory over Hudson. The imposing Schemenauer has earned the nickname “The Wall of America” according to Parker while Post, Reeg and Drake Bowe all made their mark as a part of a deep group.

“All we had to do was push them wide (and) get sticks in front of them,” Bohland said of the defense after Saturday’s sectional championship. “Bridger takes care of the rest and makes it easy.”

The Cardinals face another stiff test on Friday in the form of the Big Eight Conference champion Wildcats. Senior forward Cale Rufenacht leads the team with 28 goals and 58 total points and netted a hat trick in his team’s 5-2 victory over Madison Edgewood in the sectional finals. Seven different players have found the net at least 10 times for Verona.

“We’re just keeping our heads up,” Trippler said of the defense after Saturday. “Bridger is staying on his toes, we back him up and he backs us up and we’re just getting the quick breakout passes and get it out as fast as we can to keep rolling and have our forwards to our forecheck.”

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