She doesn’t really know where it started. It could have been the basement, with the net tied up to the hot water pipes, or it could have been the backyard, flooded with hose-water.

No matter where it started, Margo Thousand know where she wants her high school hockey career to end.

Thousand plays both defender and forward for the Sun Prairie co-op program known as the Cap-City Cougars. The senior and her teammates head into this season looking to finish where they left off last year: at the WIAA state tournament.

Thousand returns to a team that had five other girls named to all-Badger Conference teams a season ago — Thousand has been a unanimous all-conference pick for two consecutive seasons.

She scored 11 goals and had 11 assists in the regular season last year, helping her Cougars win the conference title. That team also made one of the deepest postseason runs in program history, a run that was highlighted by a score by Thousand herself.

Cap City Cougars coach Jeff Thornton has a picture of Thousand’s magical moment on display.

“It sits on my desk in my office and shows Margo, with her arms raised to the ceiling, seconds after her shot from the point was redirected into the net in the second overtime to secure a trip to the state (tournament) last year,” Thornton said.

The left-handed Thousand’s goal in the second overtime gave the Cap City Cougars a 3-2 victory over the Beloit Memorial co-op in a sectional final last year. In the second state trip in program history, the Cap City Cougars lost a semifinal to eventual champion Schofield D.C. Everest, 1-0.

Thornton said that’s the image he’ll remember of Thousand, long after she graduates next spring.

“It was only fitting that she be involved in the game winning goal,” he said.

But Thousand says she will remember something else first: “We play in this tournament called (the Schwan Cup) in (Blaine,) Minnesota, every year. And I’ll remember those bus rides and just being around everybody for such a long period of time.”

Those friendships are what keeps Thousand working so hard to be a leader, helping the Cap City Cougars to succeed — even though the co-op program brings together players from Sun Prairie, DeForest, Madison East, Madison La Follette and her own high school, Waunakee.

“I really enjoy leading the team. I like making connections with the younger players on and off the ice,” Thousand said. “Everyone comes in as freshman and has different friends from other schools, and it can be hard not seeing your teammates all the time.”

Thousand and her teammates have embraced those challenges to become one of the closest and best girls hockey programs in the state — ranked No. 8 in the latest coaches’ poll.

Even as this year’s squad deals with the graduation of its top two point scorers from last season, Thornton has confidence that this group will find new ways to score.

He describes his team with phrases like “fun-loving” and “hard-working,” praising their all-for-one attitude and effort.

And the way Thornton describes his veteran leader, makes it safe to say Thousand’s influence is large on the program.

“Her work ethic makes everything she does possible. I had the pleasure of coaching her when she was on our U-12 team (younger than age 12), and she’s never changed,” Thornton said. “After all that time, she continues to out-work every player.”

As Thousand embarks on what she says might be her final season of hockey, the question remains, where did it all come from? The answer? Nothing but pure effort and long hours of work — the lessons that playing hockey have taught her, starting back when she was learning the game in her basement and her flooded backyard.

“It made me realize how to be committed,” Thousand said, “and showed me how to care about something so deeply.”

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Wisconsin State Journal prep sports editor Art Kabelowsky has traversed the state to cover sports while working for daily papers in Fort Atkinson, Racine, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Baraboo.