The ECA Stars fired plenty of shots on net. But none of them snuck through. And a scoreless playoff hockey game went deeper and deeper into the night.
They were in need of a spark. Just one goal, they thought, could open up the floodgates.
Who better to turn to than arguably the best player in the state of Wisconsin?
Midway through the second, two-time first-team all-state pick and Leader-Telegram All-Area player of the year Abigail Stow battled for a puck along the boards at center ice.
The Badger State’s leader in points then worked to get position and wove her way back into the slot, where she found the narrowest of angles to put the puck in the twine for the game’s first goal.
Stow indeed opened the floodgates. And it turned into a monsoon. Thanks to two more goals and a pair of assists from Stow, the ECA Stars went on to beat Superior 8-4 in a WIAA regional final Thursday night at Hobbs Ice Center.
“We needed somebody to step up and make a big play, which everybody needs this time of year,” coach Tom Bernhardt said. “Abigail was that person.”
That’s nothing new for the Stars. Stow, a three-year player who has been at the top or near the state’s leading scorers every season, wrote simply another chapter in her prep hockey story.
Moments after her first goal, she rocketed a one-timer from Ava Kison. Those two scores clearly lit a fire. Because Lauren Carmody then scored on a double move in front of the net shortly after to go into the intermission up 3-0.
“Once we got that first goal, we felt more comfortable with ourselves,” Stow said.
The onslaught didn’t stop there.
Stow made another individual play shorthanded to open up the third. As the Spartans passed the puck along the point, Stow shadowed and and then angled herself accordingly when a shot came from the blue line. It ricocheted off her, and then she used her speed to track it down and put it in.
She then capped of her point totals by assisting on goals from Lauren Carmody and Kison.
“It feels really good to know that my team trusts me and that they can count on me,” Stow said. “But if they can’t, I know they will be there for me.”
Her teammates indeed answered the call. Abby Jochimsem scored in the third period, as well, and all three forwards on Bernhardt’s second line scored goals.
Brooklyn Arbs concluded the goals with a wraparound tally.
Annamarie Holtz shut out the Spartans until a scoring spree late in the third period netted four goals for the visitors. In all, she had 23 saves.
If anything held the Stars back after they started scoring, it was the seven penalties they took.
“We kind of took ourselves out of that fury and out of that momentum by taking three penalties in the last six minutes of the second period,” Bernhardt said.
They’ll need those furies Tuesday when they take on second-seeded and defending state champion Hayward in the sectional semifinals. The Stars showed flashes of the state potential they have on Thursday. They’ll look to sustain it for longer against the Hurricanes.
“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season,” Stow said. “Just play our game.”