Sunday, September 23, 2018

Nick Erickson

State hockey: What a game, and what a situation for Eau Claire hockey on Saturday

MADISON — Um. Wow. 

That’s about all the words I can muster up after sitting through three hours of Memorial’s 2-1 double-overtime win in the state semifinals against Waukesha. 

I feel emotionally drained, and I’m just a guy in jeans and a flannel in the makeshift press row in section 309 of the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

In the past, it’s been really good goaltending that’s done in Memorial at the state tournament. 

It looked like Garrett Larsen might join the ranks of Dylan Phinney and Anthony Howard, the goalies who have knocked them out the last two years.

Larsen was phenomenal. Forty-four saves in all. 

But man, the smile on Chris Tok’s face had to be something special when it was a net-crashing goal that finally beat Larsen and propelled the Old Abes into the state championship game on Saturday against Hudson.

Especially coming from the third-line. Grant Thielbar was the hero after Andrew Roberts took the initial shot. 

Tok’s preached net presence and depth all year. And that’s why Memorial will play for it all in what is now just hours away. Oh, and Trevor Hudecek was pretty good himself. The Old Abes goalie made some big saves at the end of the third period, including a pad save from point blank and a snow-angel type stop where he was sprawled out in the crease. 

Not only does this set up an all-Big Rivers boys final, but it sets the stage for the biggest day in Eau Claire high school hockey history.

The ECA Stars will go for gold at noon tomorrow against the Cap City Cougars. The Old Abes will go for state title No. 3 as soon as they clean the ice from the girls game.

Eau Claire has been a hockey hub in the state for quite some time. Saturday has a chance to be its coronation. Let’s do this. 

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