Spartans' historic run falls short in WIAA state championship
The Spartans finish their season with an overall record of 20-6 after falling 3-0 to Bay Area Co-op.
MIDDLETON, Wis. — A postseason run 17 years in the making came to a hard-fought end for No. 2 seed Superior in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state championship game against top-seed Bay Area co-op, Saturday, at Bob Suter’s Capitol Ice Arena.
The Spartans fired 32 shots on goal but could not solve WIAA goaltender of the year award-winner Anna Byczek, who notched her 12th shutout of the season in a 3-0 final.
Despite the end result, Superior coach Doug Trentor could not have been prouder of the effort put forth by his team to get to this point.
“It was two championship-level teams going head-to-head and one had to come out a victor. What a classic game between two really good hockey teams,” he said.
The postseason run comes just three years after the Spartans won just two games during the 2019-2020 season.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride these kids have been on. It’s just been outstanding,” Trentor said. “We worked hard two years ago, kind of established a new program and last year built on that a little bit. Now this year things really started to click and good things are only to come from here.”
The Spartans finish the season with an overall record of 20-6 and will return the bulk of their team next season with only four seniors (Indigo Fish, Marcy Price, Brooke Lindberg and Grace Hansen) lost to graduation.
Sophomore Makaela Reinke is already looking ahead to what the team can accomplish in the years ahead.
“I’m super-excited,” she said. “I feel like we’re going to have a good next two or three years and it will be fun. Hopefully we’ll be back here next year and win.”
Early in the first period the Spartans were forced to battle back from a one-goal deficit after a defensive breakdown on the power play led to a shorthanded breakaway goal for Bay Area’s Kristina Kruse just past the two-minute mark of the first period.
The attitude of the team never wavered after the opening tally, however.
“The energy was positive throughout. We never thought that we were out of it,” Trentor said. “Of course you want to get that first goal, but in the event that you don’t, you want to make sure that you keep fighting back and the kids really dug in and fought hard for all three periods.”
After killing off a penalty in the final five minutes of the period, the Spartans ramped up the pressure with a flurry of chances on Byczek, who stood tall to keep the Ice Bears in front at the intermission.
“(We wanted to) get as many pucks to the net as we could and get as low as we can and keep working until the whistle blows,” Trentor said in trying to find the back of the net against Byczek.
The Ice Bears struck again on the power play less than four minutes into the middle frame when Addison Dahl found the back of the net through traffic on a wrist shot from the point.
Undeterred, the Spartans threatened to cut the deficit back to a goal late in the period when forward Emma Ferg received a stretch pass fresh out of the penalty box for a breakaway. The chance was thwarted by Byczek, who stopped 10 shots in the period.
Both goalies were forced to be at their best in the final minute before the final intermission beginning with Byczek making a key stop on an Autumn Cooper and Makaela Reinke two-on-one rush. Nault shut the door on a breakaway chance by Faye Brunke at the other end of the ice moments later to keep it at 2-0 into the final intermission.
Mirroring their start to the previous two periods, the Ice Bears added a third goal early in the third period from Claire Bradford. The Spartans had a golden opportunity to chip away at the deficit with a five-on-three power play, but were unable to solve netminder Byczek, who turned aside all 14 shots faced in the final frame.
Bay Area 1-1-1—3
First period — 1, BA, Kristina Kruse (unassisted), 2:06 (SH).
Second period — 2 , BA, Addison Dahl (Rachel Beeck), 3:13 (PP).
Third period — 3, BA, Claire Bradford (Julianne Bradford), :39.
Goalie saves — S, Kaylie Nault 20 (7-12-1); BA, Anna Byczek 32 (8-10-14).