It wasn’t quite the storybook ending the Cap City Cougars had hoped for.
With a trip to state on the line, the Cougars squared off against the Madison Metro Lynx, hoping to earn their fourth consecutive WIAA Sectional Championship.
Cap City 0
In the third matchup of the season between the Cougars and the Metro Lynx, the two teams – having split the season series – came out intent on playing a physical brand of hockey. Each team racked up a pair of penalties in the opening period, with some hard hits being delivered in both directions.
“It’s hockey,” said Cap City’s Captain Olivia Thompson on what the team expected coming into the game. “You know some physicality is going to happen.”
“When you have so much on the line – and the refs did a nice job of letting them play a little bit – we knew it was going to be a physical game,” added Cap City’s Head Coach Jeff Thornton. “Both teams really wanted the loose pucks… I wasn’t surprised.”
Though the Cougars outshot the Metro Lynx 33 to 21, Madison was particularly effective at gathering rebounds for follow-up shots. Their first goal off a rebound came with 4:22 remaining in the first period to put the Cougars in a 1-0 hole.
Through the late first period and early second, Cap City’s attack was hampered by penalties, limiting their chances offensively.
“It was choppy,” said Thornton. “It was one of those games where you started to feel like we were getting some good flow and then we got a penalty, they got a penalty or we got matching penalties… It just seemed like we never got into the flow of the game.”
As time ticked down in the second, the Metro Lynx went on their fourth power play of the period with 6:43 and finally capitalized. Once again, after a handful of saves from Cap City goaltender Lexi Holman – who stopped a total of 19 shots on the night – Madison buried a rebound to double their lead: 2-0.
In the third period, Cap City continued to push for their first goal to give them new life. Twice in the period, the Metro Lynx were sent to the penalty box to give Cap City a one-skater advantage. The second of those two chances came with the 7:06 mark, with the Cougars needing a goal to bring them close; the Metro Lynx managed to keep everything in front of them the entire two minutes, keeping Cap City down two goals as the clock ticked under five minutes.
“Their goaltender played extremely well,” Thornton said of Madison’s Addy Armstrong. “And they played really well in front of her.”
With 2:20 left, the Cougars pulled Holman to put an extra skater on the ice. 26 seconds later, the Metro Lynx gained possession and fired the puck toward the Cap City goal, extending the lead to three goals.
The final seconds rolled off the clock uneventfully, with the Metro Lynx clinching the berth at state as time expired.
“Yes, that was the goal: they wanted to go four sectional titles in a row and four state appearances…” said Thornton. “They fell short, but I reminded them that this is the most successful class in the history of the program. They went to state three times, they went to the state final once, they competed every time they were on the ice, and that’s all you ever ask from a player.”
The Cougars’ final record stands at 21-5-0. Despite the season-ending loss, the 2019-20 season was a big one for Cap City, earning the Badger Conference Title and notching at least 20 wins for the third time in four years.
“When the hurt wears off for the players, what they’ll be most proud of is how hard they worked,” Thornton said. “I told them in the locker room: you’ve help set a culture and set the bar high for the players that will follow you. I think they played with class, they played with respect, they played their hearts out. No one can ever take that away from them.”
“Today more than ever, we really came together as a team,” added Cap City’s Captain Zephryn Jager. “We obviously didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but I’ve never felt more of a team energy in our locker room… We were a team.”