MADISON – Kira Gunville has scored one goal this season for the Bay Area Ice Bears.
But Gunville also shared one goal with her teammates all year long.
That’s why the unheralded senior forward stepped in front of her teammates during the second intermission on Saturday and challenged them to get the one goal that was needed to switch the momentum against the defending state champion to keep their title hopes alive.
“It was really emotional,” Ice Bears junior goalie Ana Holzbach. “She just wants it for everyone. She pumped us up. She really got us going.”
The Ice Bears co-op girls hockey team is going back to the WIAA state championship game as a result.
Bay Area responded to Gunville’s passionate message by delivering a pair of third-period goals in a span of 2 minutes, 13 seconds to upend the Hayward Hurricanes 2-1 to earn its third trip to the state title game in eight years.
The Ice Bears (22-3-3) will try to win their second state championship when they face the Central Wisconsin Storm at noon Saturday at the Alliant Energy Center.
“We never felt out of it at all,” Ice Bears coach Brandon Erkkila said. “We knew with 17 minutes left that we just needed to get one. We needed to get one.”
Getting one goal was a difficult proposition going up against Hayward senior goalie Lauren Tremblay, who was named the state player of the year this week.
After being unsuccessful in doing so during a scoreless tie at Hayward (19-6-2) on Dec. 31, Bay Area went 38 minutes on Friday before scoring a goal on Tremblay. Junior Abby Anderson did the honors in chipping in a feed from sophomore Mia Dunning for a power-play goal to tie the game 1-1.
Senior Megan Saari scored the game-winner shortly after. Saari began the sequence by making a pass from behind the goal to sophomore Abby Comar, whose wrist shot was deflected by Anderson in front of the net before Saari came back to poke it past Tremblay.
“I didn’t see anything,” said Saari, one of eight seniors. “I was literally just hitting the goalie hoping it would go through.”
The start of the game didn’t go how Bay Area hoped. Senior Jenna Curtis scored a goal 7 minutes into the contest off a rebound in front of the crease.
“She shouldn’t have been there,” Erkkila said. “That wasn’t on Ana, and we just knew that Ana’s confidence would build as the game went on. She’s a gamer and loves seeing pucks, and she knows what to do with it.”
Holzbach made 21 saves going up against Tremblay, who had 26.
“I had a little chip on my shoulder because nobody expected us to be here,” said Holzbach, a first-team all-state choice. “It was always Hayward, year after year. I just feel like our team came out very strong in the third period.”
The Ice Bears got off 11 shots on goal during the second period when it had three power-play opportunities, but came away empty each time. Meanwhile, Hayward went 0-for-2 when it had the special teams advantage.
“We just went out and put pucks on nets and crashed nets,” Erkkila said. “We knew we weren’t getting anything easy against Lauren. We knew it wasn’t going to be anything high, like a snipe or anything. It would have to be a good, old-fashioned hockey goal.”
The Ice Bears are looking forward to accomplishing their ultimate goal Saturday when it tries to win the state title for the first time since 2014.
“I’m so proud of everyone on this team, especially our goalie,” said Bay Area senior Johanna Cano, who was a part of the 2014 state championship team. “She’s an outstanding goalie and deserves every award she’s ever gotten. I cannot believe we are going to be in the championship. I’m so excited.”
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