MADISON – The Bay Area Ice Bears came up just short of their ultimate goal.
It was especially tough to achieve on Saturday when they were put in a couple short-handed situations in overtime of the WIAA state championship game against the Central Wisconsin Storm.
Senior Katelyn Ramthun scored a power-play goal 5 minutes, 22 seconds into the extra frame to give the Storm a 2-1 victory at the Alliant Energy Center and crush the Ice Bears’ hopes of winning a second state title in four years.
“It was a good battle,” Ice Bears coach Brandon Erkkila said. “I knew it was going to be a one-goal game no matter what it came down to and that’s what it was.”
It appeared that one-goal game was going to swing in the Bay Area’s favor up until the closing minutes of regulation.
The Ice Bears broke a scoreless tie when junior Talia Boyea crashed the net to knock in a rebound to score the game’s first goal off assists by Abby Anderson and Autumn Klemencic 5 minutes, 28 seconds into the third period.
It was a crucial tally considering Bay Area had few opportunities and were ultimately outshot 34-15, including 12-3 in the first period.
It was a bad case of déjà vu for an Ice Bears team that was outshot 43-6 on Jan. 28 against Central Wisconsin during a 1-1 tie.
Bay Area (22-4-3) was able to stay in it on Saturday thanks to another strong performance by junior goalie Ana Holzbach, who made 32 saves.
“She did great today,” Ice Bears senior Morgan Zirbel said. “She kept us in that game, especially during the first two periods when we didn’t play our best. We owe her for those first two. We started helping her out at the end, but we should have been helping her out more throughout the game.”
The Storm (22-4-1) tied the game with an even-strength goal with 2:12 remaining by junior Emelia Edmondson, who was able to deflect in a puck that bounced up off Holzbach’s stick hand.
Ice Bears junior Evelyn Vincent was then called for slashing 1:51 into overtime. Less than two minutes after that penalty expired, Anderson was called for tripping.
The Ice Bears called a timeout following the penalty, but Ramthun scored the game-winner seven seconds into the power play.
Five of the last six penalties in the game were called on the Ice Bears, who killed off five penalties earlier in the game. Meanwhile, Bay Area squandered four power-play opportunities.
Their best looks came at the end of the second period when Zirbel had a breakaway chance, which followed shortly after by a slap shot by sophomore Mia Dunning from the blue line.
“I thought a little different on the calls, but you can’t change anything now,” Erkkila said. “It is what it is. I give a lot of credit to our girls. It was an amazing year. We made it far and almost had it.”
Central Wisconsin won its third state title and first since 2012 in its 10th straight state appearance, which included a 2-1 overtime loss to Bay Area in the state semifinals during the Ice Bears’ run to the 2014 state championship.
Bay Area had eight seniors on its team this season, including Ashley Raisbeck, Megan Saari, Kira Gunville, Janelle Wortruba, Allie Hartter, Morgan Zirbel, Johanna Cano and Olivia Newman.
Zirbel (UW-Eau Claire) and Cano (Northland College) are going on to play college hockey.
“It’s been such a special ride,” Zirbel said. “To be here on this rink with this group of girls is an unreal feeling.”
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