State bound: Wausau West builds big lead, holds on to top Stevens Point in WIAA boys hockey sectional final

Wausau West players celebrate with the sectional championship plaque after defeating SPASH 8-6 to earn a trip to the WIAA state tournament next week in Madison. (Photo by Scott Williams/For OnFocus)

By Scott Williams
For OnFocus

WISCONSIN RAPIDS – By celebration standards, the one offered up by the Wausau West boys hockey team Saturday was rather muted.

Sticks and gloves weren’t seen flying through the air after the Warriors knocked off Stevens Point Area Senior High in a WIAA sectional title game.

Maybe that’s because trips to Madison have become old hat. West will be making its eighth WIAA state tournament appearance since 2010. Or perhaps the Warriors were too busy breathing a sigh of relief.

West built a seven-goal cushion and then had to withstand a valiant comeback bid to secure a wild 8-6 victory over SPASH at the South Wood County Rec Center.

The win gave the Warriors a three-game season sweep of their Wisconsin Valley Conference rival.

West (23-3-1) will head to Veterans Memorial Coliseum for a state quarterfinal Thursday. The time and opponent will be determined after the eight teams that qualified for state are seeded.

“It’s the best feeling in the world. Since the beginning of the season we’ve been working towards for this goal just to make it to state,” said West senior forward Sam Techel, who finished with a pair of goals and an assist.

“I made it my sophomore year and even since then we came so close and we didn’t make it. That feeling is the worst feeling and I didn’t want to feel that again.”

Over on the other bench, SPASH dealt with an all too familiar feeling of another outstanding season ending in disappointment.

This marked the third-straight season the Panthers reached the sectional final. All three times they missed out on their first return trip to Madison since 2009.

Two of the losses in the sectional championship contest came at the hands of West, which also handed the Panthers three of their five losses this season.

SPASH coach Brandon Busse admitted he’s getting tired of playing the sectional bridesmaid every season.

“It’s getting real old. Once again we fell a little short. It sucks to end this way,” he said. “It’s tough to get to this point, but we just need to get over that hump. I think it will come but everyone’s frustrated three years in a row.

“It was a great season through and through. We battled all year long. A lot of people will judge your season on whether you make it to state or not, but I’m very proud of my guys.”

Another factor in the Warriors relatively subdued celebration may have had something to do with the outcome being a foregone conclusion.

At least it seemed that way late in the second period. West converted on five of its first six power-play chances to build an 8-1 lead and gain a stranglehold on the game.

“One thing we emphasize here is pressure, and we came out and put the pressure on them right away,” West junior forward Marc Sippel said. “Getting a start like that really helps if there is some adversity you face down the road. We stuck to our roots and came out with a ‘W.’”

Techel and Cade Lemmer each finished with a pair of goals to lead the Warriors’ attack. Sippel added a goal and a pair of assists.

Once the lead reached six goals a running clock was invoked. All that remained was to play out the game and make plans for a trip to Madison.

“I thought the first half of the game we played really well. We were able to control the puck in the offensive zone,” West coach Brian Brandt, Jr. said. “Give credit to our guys. They found a way to get here and get an 8-6 win.”

Not before enduring some anxious moments over the final 18 1/2 minutes, however.

A five-minute major penalty for charging opened the door for the Panthers, who did their best to pull off a miracle comeback.

Trey Zagrzebski notched a couple power-play goals late in the second period to trim the deficit to 8-3.

Barrett Brooks and Brady Dillingham added goals early in the third and suddenly West had something to think about.

But goalie Adam Prokop made a couple nice saves and the Warriors had just enough wiggle room to head back to the state tournament.

“This is what we worked for all year, so it’s a great opportunity for us to work towards our goal of winning a state championship,” Sippel said. “Beating Point is always one of our main goals. We play against them three times a year. It’s a big goal; it’s awesome.”

Warriors 8, Panthers 6
SPASH 1 2 3 – 6
Wausau West 3 5 0 – 8
First period:
1. WW, Connor Healy (Cade Lemmer), 4:20 (pp); 2. WW, Sam Techel (Marc Sippel, Lemmer), 6:37 (pp); 3. SPASH, Brandon Vlcko, 9:41; 4. WW, Lemmer (Jake Bailey), 11:21.
Second period: 5. WW, Lemmer (Techel, Lucas Langlois), 4:37 (pp); 6. WW, Techel (Lemmer, Sippel), 6:06 (pp); 7. WW, Jacob Cebula, 10:29 (pp); 8. WW, Cole Hannes (Ty Bailey, Carson Marquardt), 14:49; 9. WW, Dayne Hagedorn, 15:11; 10. SPASH, Trey Zagrzebski, 15:34 (pp); 11. SPASH, Zagrzebski (Austin Conley, Barrett Brooks), 16:30 (pp).
Third period: 12. SPASH, Brooks (Nick Norrgran, Zagrzebski), :41 (pp); 13. SPASH, Brady Dillingham, 4:13; 14. SPASH, Norrgran, 16:31.
Saves: SPASH (Spencer Wierzba, 10, Landen Kawleski 3) 13; Wausau West (Adam Prokop) 26.
Records: Wausau West 23-3-1; SPASH 20-5-2.

News Desk
Author: News Desk

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