Will Gunnell

Will Gunnell, pictured during a Dec. 22 loss to West Salem, and the Baraboo/Portage boys hockey team advanced to the third-place game at the Culver's Cup.

BROCK FRITZ/Capital Newspapers

Baraboo/Portage 7, Monona Grove 4

Joe Zemanovic registered a hat trick as the Baraboo/Portage boys hockey team opened the Culver's Cup with a 7-4 win over Monona Grove at Hartmeyer Ice Arena on Wednesday.

"We played a decent first period, then it was one of those things where we kind of let them hang around longer than we needed to," Baraboo/Portage head coach Andy Waldvogel said. "If you let teams hang around and give them opportunities to keep it close, you never know what's going to happen."

The Thunderbirds (6-5) used a three-goal first period to take control. Zemanovic got it started, scoring just 1 minute, 38 seconds into the first period before adding a power-play goal at the 9:41 mark. Mike Wech scored at the 10:52 mark to give the T-Birds a 3-0 lead heading into intermission.

Monona Grove (2-5) got on the board when Tanner Smith scored a power-play goal 5:13 into the second period. Campbell Koseor gave the T-Birds a 4-1 lead at the 11:01 mark, receiving an assist from Jack Macdonald, who had an assist on each of Baraboo/Portage's first four goals.

Both teams scored in the closing moments of the second period. Zemanovic capped his hat trick with a goal at 15:14, while Smith scored a power-play goal with 24 seconds remaining in the second to pull the Silver Eagles within 5-2 heading into the final period.

Garret Vinge trimmed the deficit to 5-3 with a power-play goal at 4:07, but Baraboo/Portage regained momentum when Gabe D'Asto scored at the 6:21 mark. Smith scored his third goal of the night with 2:04 remaining, scoring Monona Grove's third power-play goal of the game to pull the Silver Eagles within 6-4.

Baraboo/Portage's Jack Rath capped the scoring with an unassisted goal with 19 seconds remaining.

Baraboo/Portage goalie Dane Hinz had a team-high 26 saves, while Jason Borchert had 24 saves for Monona Grove and Andrew Gilbertson added three saves for the Silver Eagles.

Madison West 3, Baraboo/Portage 2

Baraboo/Portage's best effort of the season wasn't quite enough on Thursday, as the T-Birds lost a 3-2 game to Madison West in the semifinals of the Culver's Cup.

"I couldn't be more proud of how they played tonight," Waldvogel said. "Even though we lost it was probably the best 51 minutes we've played as a group. ... Just a group effort, taking pride and executing the small pieces of the game. Our guys were just sound in our system and played really well."

It wasn't enough, as the T-Birds dug themselves a 2-0 hole and couldn't climb out of it. Madison West (7-3-1) got on the board when Sam Loving scored a power-play goal at the 10:08 mark of the first period, then opened up a 2-0 lead when Drake Baldwin scored just 44 seconds into the second period.

Baraboo/Portage (6-6) kept battling and it paid off, as Wech got loose for an unassisted goal 6:55 into the second period.

"It was kind of right place, right time," Waldvogel said of Wech's goal. "It ended up being in a breakaway opportunity for Mike and he beat the goalie clean."

However, Loving assisted Baldwin for another power-play goal at the 14:41 mark and Madison West took a 3-1 lead into the final period.

Koseor scored the lone goal of the third period, finding the back of the net to pull the T-Birds within 3-2 with 10:17 remaining. The T-Birds had several chances down the stretch, including a power-play opportunity, but they couldn't take advantage.

"I feel like we outplayed them, especially in the second or third period, we just didn't end up victorious," Waldvogel said. "That was a high-quality team that we played, so that was really encouraging to see our guys competing with a team like Madison West."

Giovanni D'Asto made 22 saves for Baraboo/Portage, while Ian Hedican tallied 23 saves for Madison West.

"It was very close," Waldvogel said. "If we had a couple bounces go our way we could be playing the championship of the Culver's Cup."

Instead, Madison West will meet the winner of Thursday night's Madison Memorial versus Lakeland game championship at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Baraboo/Portage will meet the loser of the Madison Memorial and Lakeland game in the third-place game at 6 p.m. Friday at Hartmeyer Ice Arena.

"It's a tough thing to do three days in a row, but I believe we can," Waldvogel said of bouncing back on Friday. "I believe in our guys and I think they're starting to believe in each other."

Follow Brock Fritz on Twitter @BrockFritz

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