MADISON — It’s a daunting task to face Hudson at full strength and on several days of rest.
It’s even more so coming off an emotionally and physically draining double-overtime win that ended 17 hours before faceoff.
It wasn’t a recipe for success as the top-ranked Raiders and their relentless style of play wore down Eau Claire Memorial to win the WIAA boys hockey state championship game 7-1 on Saturday at the Alliant Energy Center.
It was Hudson’s second consecutive title. Memorial, which beat Waukesha 2-1 in double overtime on Friday night, settled for a silver trophy in its first appearance in the state championship game since winning it in 2013.
“It was so hard,” Abes goalie Trevor Hudecek said of bouncing back on short rest. “I was trying to fall asleep for like three hours and I just couldn’t. My adrenaline was just running like crazy. Got no sleep last night, but that’s the price you pay. There have been a lot of teams that won in that exact situation. We can’t blame anything on how we came out and played today. They had some bounces that we just didn’t get.”
Memorial (25-3-2) came out fighting early. After Cole Danielson scored 5:48 into the game off a turnover to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead, Max Savaloja responded just 1:42 later on a back-handed rebound goal.
But Ben Lundeen collected what would turn out to be the game-winning goal just four minutes later when Peyton Hanson drove through the slot and forced Hudecek out of his crease. Lundeen then caught a pass from Hanson and buried it.
The snowball began and never really stopped.
Three second-period goals, including a Joe Martin redirect with 20 seconds left in the frame, gave the Raiders a 5-1 lead after two. Danielson, who had a hat trick, and Jack Flattum added third-period goals.
The Raiders are suffocating on the forecheck and extremely disciplined. They punish tired legs, and that was evident in the second and third periods.
“They played late last night and after a period they hung in there and played really well,” Raiders coach Brooks Lockwood said. “And once our tempo kept going, I thought it was tougher for them to get back. AJ Cohen, our goaltender, played phenomenal, and that kept the momentum for us.”
Cohen was the backbone of the Raiders’ second straight title and had a phenomenal year in his first season as the varsity starter. He stopped a back-door shot that would have tied it at 2 in the first. All in all, he stopped 25 of the 26 pucks he faced.
Memorial isn’t using the Friday night game as an excuse for Saturday. Hudson also had a grind-it-out game against Verona in the earlier semifinal.
It’s just that the Raiders’ style is built for tournament play, and it showed on Saturday.
“You could definitely feel we were tired, but I mean you can’t make excuses,” forward Austin Karnitz said. “They played a game that day too and went 100 percent. It is what it is.”
Saturday wasn’t indicative of the season for Memorial. It had a 25-3-2 record under first-year coach Chris Tok and had a belief it belonged in Championship Saturday.
The Old Abes will still come back with a trophy from the state tournament for just the third time in program history.
“Very proud,” Tok said. “These guys worked hard all season long, and this was the one team that was our Achilles’ heel. Gave us trouble every time we played them. We knew we were in for a tough game today and obviously it didn’t go our way. But these guys worked hard all season long, and they were a pleasure to coach.”
Hudson, meanwhile, kept the dynasty going. The Raiders played in their third straight state title game and rolled to their second straight gold trophy. The Big Rivers champions finished with a 28-1-1 record.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the kids,” Lockwood said.
And Saturday’s championship game proved the Big Rivers was one heck of a league this winter.
“It’s an unbelievable conference, and the hockey in our area is phenomenal,” said Lockwood, a UW-Eau Claire graduate.
Memorial says goodbye to a talented senior class that won 85 games in four years. They continued one of the most storied traditions in any sport in northwest Wisconsin.
“It’s been four long, awesome years and I couldn’t be more thankful for them,” Hudecek said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way. Whatever happens happens, and I think you learn from everything. Going back with a trophy is cool. We would have wanted to go back with a gold one, but I’m very proud of our team. Great success and a great season.”