In the first two meetings between the White Hawks and Tigers, they split the games. In those two games combined shots were Tigers-87 and White Hawks-45. Going into the championship game with almost a 2-1 advantage for the Tigers, the White Hawks were up for a big challenge and needed to get an early lead.
The scene: Gustavus Adolphus College campus. The White Hawks were accompanied by an outstanding fan base with energy that lit up the White Hawks stands and followed by hundreds, if not thousands, of fans on a live stream. The energy was contagious. They wanted it and they have been working towards this since the last time they were there in 2013. They knew it would take their best effort and strong defense to stop Delano’s offense.
The White Hawks have a very balanced, three-line attack that took the Tigers by surprise. For the first time this season, with these two opponents meeting on the ice, everyone was healthy and the lines were clicking well for the White Hawks. The White Hawks struck first in the first period with a great effort from Emily Schepers getting the puck to sister and co-captain Liz Schepers, who needed two or three shots to get it past the Tigers goalie for a 1-0 lead 4:12 into the game.
The next five minutes was a back and forth effort with the defensive group of co-captain Abbie Dierbeck, Katelyn Wagner, Tatum Anderson and Sydney Bowe blocking shots and continuing to get the puck out of the defensive zone. Then came the shot that shocked the Tigers. co-captain Ellie Burris lined up in the offensive zone with line mates Lauren Burris and Maddie Neiderer. Ellie Burris won the draw back to Lauren Burris and she ripped a slap shot into the upper right netting sent whistling by the goalie’s head for a 2-0 lead. The crowd, as they did on Liz’s first goal, went crazy and you could tell by looking at the two benches that the White Hawks believed and the Tigers were in shock. White Hawks take a 2-0 lead into the second period and out shooting the Tigers 7-5.
The second period White Hawks did not let up. With 3:30 into the second, Emily Schepers scored on a tip in to the upper corner assisted on a blast from Anderson and assisted from eighth grader Brooke Pioske. Goalie Emma Polusny over the next eight minutes. Liz Schepers got her second goal of the game on a great pass from Pioske and Schepers. Emily Schepers won the battle at the red line getting the puck up to Pioske and she hit Schepers in front and a quick short side shot that gave them a 4-0 lead. Less than a minute later, and on a power play, Schepers won the draw to Niederer who bounced a pass off the boards for Ellie Burris to do a one-timer slap shot that was tipped by Lauren Burris. It caught the goalie out of position for a 5-0 lead and her second goal of the game. The Tigers finally get on the board with a nice goal by Jamie Byrne assisted by Anna Keranen and Emily Olson. That ended the scoring for the second period and the White Hawks outshooting the Tigers 13-8.
In the third period a 5-1 lead and Lauren Burris in the penalty box, the Tigers’ Byrne strikes again on a nice tip in from Anna Kivisto, and co-captain Rylan Bistodeau. With the score at 5-2 and some momentum behind them, Tigers were pushing but still were unable to get through the defense and strong play by the forwards. There was no scoring for next 15 minutes and you could see the desperation growing for the Tigers. Gallus puts an end to any comeback. Liz Schepers made a great pass to a breaking Gallus, who shot and then put away her own rebound. White Hawks won 6-2.
This will be the second time in history for Westonka girls hockey to make it to state and a second appearance for seniors Ellie Burris, Emma Polusny, Liz Schepers and Hunter Gallus.