McKaylie Buescher always has had to go the extra mile to excel at her favorite sport, hockey.
Last year, the senior had to split time in goal with a teammate on the Beloit Memorial co-op girls team.
But this season, it’s been Buescher all the way. And her season-long performance is one of the main reasons the Fury is poised for a strong post-season run.
The Rock County Fury (19-3-2) is ranked fifth in the state by WisconsinPrepHockey.net and won the program’s first-ever Badger Conference championship this season.
The Fury open the post-season at 7 p.m. Friday, taking on the Mauston co-op — the Badger Lightning (0-18-0) — in a regional final at Janesville Ice Arena.
“I’m most successful this year because we have a very strong team,” said Buescher, who comes to the Fury co-op from Milton High School. “We came in to the season really strong, we practiced during the summer and got to know the newer players, so we came in ready to go.”
The Fury co-op consists of players from nine high schools: Albany, Brodhead, Clinton, Beloit Memorial, Beloit Turner, Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker, Milton, and Monroe.
This year, Buescher leads all goaltenders in Wisconsin with 11 shutouts and is ranked first in goals-against average (1.30 per game). She also ranks second in the state in wins (19) and save percentage (.934).
“I’ve been focusing more on the little things, like the errors I’ve been making, and I’ve been watching game film,” Buescher said. “It also doesn’t bother me as much when people score on me. I get back up and get ready for the next shot.”
Fury coach Luke Steurer said Buescher’s lofty statistics are a result of basic hard work.
“She always works hard when she’s out on the ice and doesn’t want to settle on just being ‘good,’” said Steurer, who was Buescher’s goalie coach for three years before becoming the Fury’s head coach.
Buescher also has spent a lot of time working with Fury assistant coach Blane Einbeck.
Buescher said while it’s a privilege to be highly ranked, the momentum a team can take from the regular season into the postseason is most important.
“It’s definitely an honor, but we don’t get our heads hung on that kind of stuff,” Buescher said. “You could have three bad games and then all of a sudden, you’re on a winning streak for 17 games.”
Postseason success is not new to Buescher and the Fury. The program made its first state trip in 2016, falling to Hayward, 6-1, in a semifinal. Last year, the Fury fell to Sun Prairie’s Cap City Cougars co-op, 3-2 in double overtime, in a sectional final.
Steurer believes that Buescher’s biggest postseason challenge will be having more pucks fired at her.
“She’s going to see quite a few more shots,” Steurer said. “She just needs to make sure she’s mentally prepared for those big-shot games.”
“I’m excited to play some good hockey,” Buescher said. “Everybody comes ready to play, so there’s going to be lots of competitive games. And playing your best matters the most in the postseason.”
Despite having its players come from nine area schools, the Fury players have built excellent chemistry.
“There’s no drama between the girls this year. We’re a really close team,” Buescher said. “It feels like a close family.”