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WIAA state boys hockey preview: Verona's Brockton Baker

Verona's Brockton Baker (16) celebrates a goal scored on Waunakee during the first period of a WIAA regional final in Verona, Wis., Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. M.P. KING, STATE JOURNAL

THE BASICS

What: The 48th annual WIAA state boys hockey tournament.

Where: Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Alliant Energy Center.

When: Thursday through Saturday.

Tickets, parking: Tickets are $8 per two-game session ($5 for those age 13 and younger; $1 for those age 6 and younger). Parking can be purchased at the gates for $7.

On the air/online: On Thursday and Friday, games will be streamed live via subscription ($9.95/month) on the WIAA.tv portal of the NFHS Network. Those streams will be available for free starting Tuesday evening. Saturday’s final will be televised live on the WIAA’s State Television Network, including WKOW in Madison, and streamed live on the State Television Network’s website.

On the Web: Live scoring, box scores, pairings, sectional results and tournament history is available at https://www.wiaawi.org/Sports/BoysHockey.aspx

Last year: Hudson earned the third state title in program history with a 2-1 victory over the Waukesha North co-op. Both teams return this year, along with West Salem/Bangor.

History: Superior leads the field with 13 state championships; Madison Memorial has won eight and Madison East four.

SCHEDULE

Thursday’s quarterfinals

10 a.m.: (1) Hudson (25-1-1) vs. Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs co-op (21-4-2)

12:15 p.m: Verona (20-3-3) vs. (4) Green Bay Notre Dame (18-7-2)

4 p.m.: (2) Eau Claire Memorial (23-2-2) vs. West Salem/Bangor (20-7)

6:15 p.m.: (3) Waukesha North co-op (20-4-3) vs. Schofield D.C. Everest (19-6-2)

Friday’s semifinals

4 p.m.: Thursday’s early winners meet

6:15 p.m.: Thursday’s late winners meet

Saturday’s final

2:15 p.m.: Semifinal winners meet

THE LOWDOWN

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Colin Ahern, sr., G, Fond du Lac St. Mary's Springs: One of eight nominees for the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association Player of the Year award, Ahern sports a 1.17 goals-against average with eight shutouts and 564 saves.

Brockton Baker, jr., F, Verona: Leads the Wildcats with 30 goals and 31 assists.

J.J. Berdal, sr., D, Schofield D.C. Everest: An honorable mention all-state pick last year, Berdal leads the Evergreens with 24 goals and 26 assists.

Cole Danielson, jr., F, and Peyton Hanson, so., F, Hudson: Danielson, an all-state honorable mention pick last year, ranks fourth on the team with 18 goals and 17 assists. Hanson leads the Raiders with 21 goals and 21 assists.

Jack Gorniak, sr., F, West Salem/Bangor: Gorniak earned first-team all-state honors as a sophomore and junior and is a Player of the Year nominee this year. He leads the Panthers with 30 goals and 30 assists.

Grady Gornick, sr., F, Hudson: Played in only 13 regular-season games, notching 19 goals and 32 assists, but has come up big in the post-season. An all-state honorable mention pick last year.

Jordan Halverson, sr., D, Hudson: A State Player of the Year nominee, Halverson has 10 goals and 26 assists for the Raiders, who have allowed only 30 goals in 24 games.

Trevor Hudecek, sr., G, Eau Claire Memorial: Earned first-team all-state honors last year and is a Player of the Year nominee this year. Hudecek has allowed 33 goals (1.79 per game) with 446 saves and a 17-2-2 record.

Michael Janke, sr., G, Schofield D.C. Everest: Allowed 43 goals (1.84 per game) with 494 saves and a 16-6-2 record this year. Earned all-state honorable mention last year.

Garhett Kaegi, sr., G, Verona: Has turned back 453 shots (.890 save percentage) while allowing 56 goals (2.44 goals-against average), with a 17-3-3 record.

Brenden Olson, jr., F, and Ben Zacho, sr., F, Eau Claire Memorial: Both earned all-state honorable mention last year. Olson leads the team with 26 goals and 25 assists; Zacho has 22 goals and 25 assists. Together, they have produced 38 percent of the Old Abes’ goals.

TEAM CAPSULES

Big Eight Conference champion Verona, honorable mention in the state rankings, takes a 14-game unbeaten string to state. Coach Joel Marshall’s Wildcats haven’t lost to a Wisconsin opponent in their last 21 outings, including a 3-3 tie in December against quarterfinal opponent Green Bay Notre Dame. Propelling a young and balanced offense are junior Brockton Baker (61 points), sophomore Mack Keryluk (41 points), sophomore Cale Rufenacht (31 points), junior Jake Osiecki (30 points) and junior Mason McCormick (28 points). Goaltender Garhett Kaegi has enjoyed a strong senior season with an .890 save percentage.

Eighth-ranked Green Bay Notre Dame bounced back from three consecutive losses after the holiday break to take an 8-1-0 streak into the state tournament. The Tritons’ offense is led by senior forward Bryce Poshak (22 goals, 18 assists). Sophomore goaltender Bo Buckley has 467 saves for coach Cory McCracken’s team.

Top-ranked Hudson, coached by Brooks Lockwood, suffered its only loss in its regular-season finale, a 3-2 loss to Green Bay Notre Dame. Two games earlier came the Raiders’ only tie, a 2-2 decision against Eau Claire Memorial. The Big Rivers Conference champs average 6.1 goals and allow 1.0, with a defense anchored by junior goaltender Alex Cohen (347 saves).

The Badgerland Conference co-champion Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs co-op, ranked 10th, lost its regular-season finale to the Waukesha North co-op but has gone 11-1-1 in its last 13 games, with two post-season shutouts. Junior Zach Welsch (26 goals, 22 assists) leads the offense for coach Tim Ahern.

Third-ranked Eau Claire Memorial finished second to Hudson in the Big Rivers Conference, but tied the Raiders, 2-2, as part of its current 13-game unbeaten streak. Brenden Olson (51 points) and Ben Zacho (47 points) lead a balanced offense, and senior Trevor Hudecek has 446 saves for coach Chris Tok.

West Salem/Bangor won the Coulee Conference and earned honorable mention in the latest state rankings. Coach Eric Borre’s Panthers lost to New Richmond in the regular-season finale. Senior Jack Gorniak (60 points) leads the offense.

The Waukesha North co-op, ranked seventh, won the Classic 8 Conference and has won 12 straight after a loss to Hudson, earning a third consecutive state trip. Junior Chad Larsen (19 goals, 23 assists) leads the offense for coach Raja Aylsworth, and junior goaltender Garrett Larsen has 538 saves. Dale McFarlane, a Wings assistant coach for the last 11 years, is a Madison native who played on Madison Edgewood's first-ever varsity hockey team in 1974.

Schofield D.C. Everest was the third-place finisher in the Wisconsin Valley Conference and an honorable mention team in the state rankings. But the Evergreens beat league co-champions Wausau West and Stevens Point in sectional play, with both victories coming in two overtimes. Coach Daniel VanSlyke’s team is led on offense by senior J.J. Berdal (50 points) and on defense by senior goaltender Michael Janke (494 saves).

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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.