Metro Lynx advances to state title game

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Dennis Semrau/For the Times-Tribune
Sydney Raaths and Middleton's co-op hockey team defeated Beloit's co-op team Thursday and advanced to the state title game./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

MADISON — It didn’t take long for junior forward Ava Jambor and her second-ranked Middleton co-op teammates to make a impact at Veterans Memorial Coliseum-Alliant Energy Center on Thursday afternoon.

Just 1 minute, 54 seconds actually.

That’s how long it took for Jambor to record the first goal for the Metro Lynx — made up of girls from Middleton, Madison Memorial, Madison West, Madison Edgewood and Verona — and ignite a 5-2 victory over the Beloit Memorial co-op in a WIAA prep girls hockey state semifinal game.

“I was actually kind of shocked,” said Jambor, who entered the game with four goals and seven assists this season for the Lynx, “ I just saw the puck, I shot it and I scored. Nothing major really goes through your head, you see the puck, you shoot it.”

Jambor, one of six Middleton girls on the Lynx roster, was the recipient of the first of two assists in the game from sophomore forward Kaya Pelton-Byce.

“It was really just a team effort,” Jambor said. “Without my team, I wouldn’t have been able to hit the puck in. I love my team because they’re the reason I was able to have so much success throughout the season.”

 The Middleton co-op (24-3), making its first state appearance, will face the sixth-ranked Appleton Xavier co-op (21-7) at noon Saturday in the championship game. The Fox Cities Stars defeated Hudson 4-2 in the other semifinal.

The Metro Lynx defeated the Stars 2-0 in a non-conference game on Jan. 25.

Freshman goaltender Addie Armstrong stopped 30 shots for the Lynx, who skated out to a 3-0 lead in the first period against the Rock County Fury (18-9) and never looked back.

It was the eighth straight win for the Metro Lynx and 19th in their past 20 games.

“We had good energy, and I was confident we were just going to keep rolling,” said Armstrong, a Madison Memorial student, who entered the game with a 1.21 goals-against-average. “There wasn’t a lot of doubt in my mind.”

The Badger Conference foes, who shared the league title along with the Sun Prairie co-op, were meeting for the third time this season.

The Metro Lynx won the first meeting 4-3 on Jan. 7, while the Rock County Fury countered with a 3-2 victory in overtime on Feb. 1.

The Lynx, though, won the only meeting that mattered.

“We really looked back at some of the videos to see what we did well the first game that propelled us to victory,” Lynx coach Mike McKersie said. “We had a lot of pressure. We really attacked and tried to take away a lot of their time in space, and it was very effective for us.

“The second game, it seemed like we sat back and they really took it to us, which generated more scoring opportunities for them. So we really talked about trying to keep (Anika) Einbeck and (Alyssa) Knauf and (Haley) Knauf with limited shots and limited quality shots. Because you know they’re going to get some.

The Lynx were able to kill off all four of the Fury’s power-play opportunities. They also held in check the high-scoring line of Annika Einbeck, Alyssa Knauf and Haley Knauf, who had combined for 70 goals this season.

“Any time a team can accomplish holding our first line to one or two goals they’re putting in the work and are strong defensively,” Fury coach Luke Steurer said.

Added McKersie: “We had to come through with a solid defense and a relentless back checking, and we were able to do it for most of the game.”   

Despite being outshot, 32-19, in the rematch, the Lynx grabbed the early lead and never faltered.

Sophomore defender Grace Bonnell added an unassisted goal at 4:26, and sophomore forward Rachel Mirwald scored the first of her two goals off an assist from senior defender Josie Dragoo with 90 seconds remaining in the period.

Armstrong, who had 14 saves in the opening period, said the strong showing on offense just made her job easier.

“It was really big for us,” Armstrong said. “It was important that I hold my own in the net because our forwards go to work hard in their end, and I need to be strong on our end as well.”

McKersie said Armstrong was at her best when the Lynx needed her the most.

“(Beloit) had some pressure early on, and Addie was seeing pucks really well,” McKersie said. “She did a good job of putting pucks to the corner, and our defense was great to help her clean up other (shots). It was a fantastic game by her.”

The Fury ended Armstrong’s bid for a shutout when junior forward Alyssa Knauf tipped in an unassisted goal at 10:50 in the second period.

But the Lynx got that one back when senior forward Hannah Kolpien scored her 10th goal of the season with 24 seconds left in the period.

“They didn’t have a lot of great opportunities in the second period, I feel,” Armstrong said of the Fury. “They did have the goal, but our defense did a good job keeping them out of the net.”

Beloit pulled within 4-2 when junior forward Anika Einbeck delivered an unassisted goal at 12:27 of the final frame.

But the Metro Lynx countered when Mirwald and Pelton-Byce teamed up for the final score of the game.

“We dumped it into the corner and Kaya Byce fed it right to me right in front of the net, and I popped it in,” Mirwald said.

Mirwald, a Verona student. set a single-season program record for assists — 26 in regular season and three in the postseason.

But scoring her ninth and 10th goals of the season in a state semifinal game was “was pretty special.”

“It felt really good,” Mirwald said. “Our team was just rolling. Once we got the momentum, it was amazing.”

Pelton-Byce, a Madison Memorial student, whose dad, John, won a national title for the Wisconsin Badgers in 1990, and whose brother, Ty, is a current member of the UW hockey team, was thrilled to be headed for the championship game.

“It was super exciting,” she said of playing at the Coliseum. “I’m just trying to follow in my dad and brother’s footsteps. I look up to them a lot. I’m just here with my best friends having a lot of fun.

“We knew we had it in us. Just from past experience, from playing these guys, we knew we could beat them.”


March 5

Middleton co-op 5, Beloit Memorial co-op 2

Beloit Memorial co-op …. 0 1 1 — 2

Middleton co-op …………. 3 1 1 — 5

First period: M — Ava Jambor (Kaya Pelton-Byce), 1:54; Grace Bonnell, 4:26 (sh); Rachel Mirwald (Josie Dragoo), 15:30 (sh).

Second period: BM — Alyssa Knauf, 10:50. M — Hannah Kolpien, 16:36.

Third period: BM — Anika Einbeck, 12:27. M — Mirwald (Pelton-Byce), 15:34.

Shots on goal: BM 14-9-9:32 (A. Knauf 12, H. Knauf 8, Einbeck 3, Boehlke 3, Nerad 3, Wells 1, Combs 1, Edler 1); M 10-4-5:19 (Reaths 4, Kolpien 4, Mirwald 2, Jambor 2, Johnson 2, Wischhoff 1, Dragoo 1, Bonnell 1, Goetzke 1, Byce 1).

Saves: BM 14 (Olivia Cronin); M 30 (Addie Armstrong). Penalties-minutes: BM 2-4; M 7-14. Power-plays: BM 0-4; M 0-1.


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