The last time the Cap City Cougars met the Fox Cities Stars was at the Coliseum, where the two teams squared off in last season’s state semifinals.
The stakes weren’t quite as high on Monday night, but the Cougars – ranked fourth in the state – were eager to avenge their season-ending loss to the Stars.
Cap City 2,
Fox Cities 1
Early on, it looked like the fifth-ranked Stars had the upper hand against Cap City. Fox Cities outskated the Cougars; the teams spent the majority of the time on Cap City’s end of the ice due to the Stars being extra active in the passing lanes.
“They came out and took it to us for most of the first period…” said Cap City’s Head Coach Jeff Thornton. “We’ve been a second-period team all year.”
“They came out super quick,” added Cap City’s goaltender Lexi Holman.
Late in the period, the Stars netted the game’s first goal; with 2:30 left until the first intermission, Fox Cities appeared poised to take the 1-0 lead into the break.
That was until Amanda Bauer – Cap City’s leading goal-scorer – came up with the Cougars’ response. Off a pretty sequence from Zephryn Jager and Olivia Thompson, Bauer fired a shot from the right side of the ice, beating the Stars’ goalie to even the score at one apiece.
“[Our response] was big,” Bauer said of scoring the equalizer. “It picked up momentum.”
The Cougars carried that momentum into the second period, where they began outskating the defending champs.
“Overcoming that first period, I had trust in my team that we were going to pick it up…” said Holman. “In the second period, we score our most goals; I definitely figured we were going to come through and pick up the tempo.”
With the Cougars peppering Fox Cities’ net with shots, it was only a matter of time until one finally went in. When it did, the shot was again off the stick of Bauer, with assists from Jager and Lauren Bliefernicht.
The assist marked Jager’s 31st of the season: the highest total in Wisconsin.
“It’s awesome,” Bauer said of playing a player who sets up her teammates the way Jager does. “Every play, she has something to do with it.”
Cap City carried the 2-1 lead into the third, where the teams battled back and forth, but neither side found a way to score a game-changing goal as the period wore on.
With 7:40 to go, the Stars were presented with their best late opportunity to tie the game when a Cougar player was sent to the penalty box.
“That was certainly one of their bigger chances…” said Thornton. “That’s a critical penalty kill.”
Holman and the Cap City defense held firm; the Cougars’ sophomore goalie made five saves during the two-minute stretch to maintain the one-goal lead.
“It broke them down a little bit,” Holman said of the final penalty kill. “They had a lot of great chances to score; when they didn’t score, they broke down.”
With time dwindling, the Stars finally pulled their goalie with 40 seconds to play, but were unable to force overtime. When the final horn rang, Cap City emerged with the 2-1 win.
Holman made a total of 31 saves to earn the victory in goal.
“Fox Cities is a great team; they knocked us out at state last year and then won it all,” Thornton said. “It’s nice to exact at least a small piece of revenge. I’m sure they’ll take their state title over a mid-season game, but it was nice for our players to get a win.”
The win ups Cap City’s record to 16-2-0 (8-1-0 Badger Conference) on the season. The Cougars will hit the road for their next two games, starting with Friday’s contest at Viroqua. The puck is scheduled to drop at Viroqua Community Arena at 7:30 p.m.