EAU CLAIRE — The Chi-Hi/Menomonie girls hockey team struggled to convert scoring chances on Wednesday.
That wasn’t a problem on Thursday.
The co-op closed out tournament play in Eau Claire with a 6-1 victory over Appleton United at Hobbs Ice Arena. Kaylee Frenette led the way for Chi-Hi/Menomonie with three goals in a sterling performance.
“She’s a senior captain and she stepped up,” Chi-Hi/Menomonie coach Tony Menard said about Frenette. “We needed someone to show up today and kind of put the team on their back, and being the senior and being a captain she did a great job. We had a lot of contribution out of everybody in the game today, so that was great to see that everybody followed suit.”
The win gave Chi-Hi/Menomonie (2-9-1) a 1-2-0 record at the holiday tournament. The girls lost to Warbirds/Beaver Dam and Fox Cities on Wednesday in games in which they totaled 25 and 14 shots on net, respectively. They had 32 shots on goal on Thursday.
“The girls had a little bit different (level of) confidence to them. I think they were hungry for a win, and they’ve been playing pretty good hockey,” Menard said. “It’s not a big change on what happened (yesterday), it’s just they were getting more pucks into the net and were breaking the puck out better, which helps out tremendously.”
Chi-Hi/Menomonie put its shooting woes from the first two games of the tournament behind it in a hurry on Thursday. Alexy Dresel scored less than five minutes into the game to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Samantha Kukuk doubled the lead by scoring unguarded in front of the net for her first varsity goal with the help of an assist by Chloe Beaudette. That put Chi-Hi/Menomonie up 2-0 with 7:11 remaining in the first period, but the two-goal cushion didn’t last long.
Appleton United’s Annika Horman cut into the lead with a goal with just under three minutes left in the first period. Chi-Hi/Menomonie had a quick answer though, as Sidney Polzin found the back of the net with 1:54 to go until the break to push the lead to 3-1.
The Chi-Hi/Menomonie defense remained stout after that, highlighted by some solid goalkeeping by Haley Frank. The sophomore made 32 saves a day after stopping 53 shots in the loss to Warbirds/Beaver Dam.
“That’s a tremendous game for her,” Menard said about Frank. “We have a lot of confidence in her. We talked about it at the beginning of the season that she’s looking to really improve on her game, and so far this season she’s done that.”
With Frank holding United at bay, Frenette took over in the offensive zone. The senior doubled her goal tally with 10 seconds remaining in the second period on a standout piece of individual play, wrapping behind the net and taking the puck into the middle of the ice before knocking a shot past the Appleton goalkeeper.
She scored again with 8:57 to go in the third period, and completed her hat trick with a goal about three minutes later to cap off Chi-Hi/Menomonie’s second win of the season.
“We talked in the locker room after the games yesterday and said we’ve just got to find a way to get over this hump, and we’ve got to bring everything we’ve got tomorrow to try to get a win. The girls brought it today,” Menard said.
Chi-Hi/Menomonie travels to Hudson next Thursday seeking its first Big Rivers Conference win.