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Prep Girls Hockey | Chippewa Falls/Menomonie 4, Superior 1

Watch Now: Prep Girls Hockey: Chippewa Falls/Menomonie opens state championship defense with win over Superior

Superior at Chippewa Falls/Menomonie girls hockey 11-23-21

Chippewa Falls/Menomonie's Brianna Buonincontro celebrates after scoring a goal against Superior on Tuesday evening at Chippewa Area Ice Arena.

Emma-Lyn Stephenson netted a hat trick as the Chippewa Falls/Menomonie girls hockey team opened its state championship defense with a 4-1 win over Superior on Tuesday evening at Chippewa Area Ice Arena.

The Sabers (1-0) scored the final four goals of the game with Brianna Buonincontro tying the game in the second period before Stephenson added one goal in the second and two more in the third to lift Chippewa Falls/Menomonie to the pull away win. Superior jumped out to an early lead in the first period and kept it until the Sabers starting to find the back of the net in the second and third.

“I think with this team we need to get out on the ice, we need to get through some of the bumps and bruises of that first period and just get those jitters out of us," Chippewa Falls/Menomonie coach Tony Menard said. "We just had to find a way to settle in so once we did that we found ways to control the puck low in the offensive zone and they really couldn’t get a whole lot set up in our defensive zone.”

An early mistake led to a short-handed goal for the Spartans when a turnover ended up on the stick of forward Autumn Cooper as she raced down the ice and beat Sabers goaltender Kasandra Herr for the goal just before eight minutes into the contest.

But after early trouble the Sabers settled in, evening the game just past the eight-minute mark of the second period when Brianna Buonincontro knocked home a shot past Superior's Kaylie Nault with an assist from Joey Schemenauer and Madelyn Hebert. It was Schemenauer who scored the state-winning goal for the Sabers back on Feb. 20 in a 3-2 overtime win over the University School of Milwaukee with Buonincontro on the assist.

Less than five minutes later Stephenson scored for the first time when she buried an unassisted power-play goal at 9:47 to put the Sabers ahead 2-1.

“I think after the first period we really came together in the locker room," Stephenson said. "We talked about how we knew we were all nervous. It’s the first game so it was fine to be nervous and just forget about the mistakes and move on and I think we all came together as a team and got it done.”

Stephenson scored twice in the third period less than three minutes apart to help Chippewa Falls/Menomonie pull away as the first came at 12:43 with help from Paige Steinmetz and Addisyn Buesgen before an unassisted power-play goal at 15:25.

“That’s really good for her, hopefully gives her some confidence," Menard said of Stephenson's hat trick. "That whole line was buzzing from the second period on. They really found a way to just come together with Addy (Buesgen) being a freshman on that line (and) Paige Steinmetz got a lot of playing time last year. They’re going to learn that they’re a fast line. I’m really looking forward to how they keep growing and seeing what they’re able to do the rest of the season.”

Herr made 24 total saves between the pipes for the Sabers as the sophomore was strong in the win.

“I thought Kassie played outstanding for her first start and if she’s able to play like that I think we’re going to be in a lot of games," Menard said. "We’re looking to get four goals (per game), we got our four goals tonight and things just need to get a little cleaner passing wise and coming through the neutral zone with more control than what we were tonight.”

Menard said he was proud of how the team battled back from the slow start and secured the victory as the Sabers get into a season with higher expectations than in the past following last year's state championship. Chippewa Falls/Menomonie returns to action next Tuesday when it opens Big Rivers Conference play against the league's newest team with a matchup against the Western Wisconsin Stars in Somerset.

“It felt really good to get it started and a lot of our seniors from last year were here watching so it felt really nice to make them proud, continue on what they helped us with last year," Stephenson said of the win.

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