The holiday season is among us and Christmas is only 28 days away, but the Warbirds co-op prep girls hockey team received an early present Saturday night.

The Fond du Lac-based co-op that absorbed the Beaver Dam co-op this year was tied up with Sun Prairie-based Cap City late when the Cougars’ Colleen Milligan received a 2-minute minor penalty for holding with 4 minutes, 2 seconds left in the game. Just 55 seconds later, the Warbirds’ Dayna Jones scored the game-winner in Fond du Lac/Beaver Dam’s 5-4 victory.

“They’re a very good team,” Warbirds senior Lauren Huettl said. “They were at state last year, so it was an accomplishment to beat them.”

Both teams knew the game was going to be tough, as the Warbirds were ranked fifth and the Cougars were seventh in the WisconsinPrepHockey.net preseason rankings.

“You expected this — it was going to be a close game,” Warbirds co-head coach Paul Uttech said. “I think we would’ve liked to be a little bit more effective offensively, but you have to give them some credit because they played solid defensively. They were solid in net.

“We needed to get a little more traffic in front with some of our shots on net.”

Cap City didn’t make it close until the third period when the Cougars scored three goals in a span of about 3 minutes. At 7:10, Amanda Bauer hit a rebounded shot from Mulligan that went in to make it 4-2. A couple minutes later, Machenzie Rosin put a shot between the legs of Warbirds goaltender Abby Okon. Bauer got the equalizer 11:08 into the third.

“On one level, I’m glad that happened because they tied it up at 4-4, lets see what we’re going to do in the next three or four minutes,” Uttech said. “They made it a little easier by taking that penalty and putting us on the power play.

“This is the kind of test you want. We want to play well, but ultimately it’s not really how we’re playing now, it’s about how we’re playing in February. It’s good to see how we can respond to this.”

Okon finished with 24 saves on the night and letting in three goals in the third didn’t seem to faze her.

“We want our goalie to forget about it,” Uttech said. “It’s not that you don’t want her to care, because we want her to work hard and come back and battle, but ultimately you’ve got to put that out of her mind and move on.

“Tonight there were some great opportunities that they had early and she was in the zone. She was ready, she was prepared and she was expecting the shot.”

The Warbirds (4-0) were all over the Cougars (0-1) in the second period; scoring three goals to take a 4-0 lead. With a 1-0 lead entering the period from a wrist shot by Drew Deanovich, the Warbirds gained some cushion when Huettl’s shot from the blue line floated past several bodies and snuck through Cap City goaltender Taylor Thornton 1:08 into the period.

Six minutes later, Hattie Verstegen made a move past several Cougars to find an open shot that got by Thornton to make it 3-0. Teammate Alyssa Heim wanted in on the action when she skated the entire length of the rink and scored from the left of Thornton at 12:14.

“We were probably a little more confident than we should’ve been,” Huettl said. “We let them in (this game), but we hustled at the end to finish strong.”

With 5 seconds left in the second period, Cap City’s Carson Sheridan found the back of the net to make it 4-1 and give the Cougars some momentum.

“We were working harder than they were working, I think,” Uttech said. “You get up 4-1 and you start to get comfortable. Sun Prairie is a very strong team.

“They were at state last year, so there’s no quit in them.”

The Warbirds showed they didn’t have any quit in them either as they hustled until the game ended.

“One of the things about this group is we feel pretty confident in what they can do,” Uttech said. “It’s a matter of, even when it was 4-4, I wasn’t nervous about what was going to happen. We just need to go out and execute.

“There’s a lot of confidence in our ability to play on the ice. We’ve got a lot of talented kids out there. So some of this is they’ve got to go out and assert themselves.”

BEAVER DAM CO-OP 5, SUN PRAIRIE CO-OP 4

Sun Prairie co-op 0 1 3—4

Beaver Dam co-op 1 3 1—5

First period: BD – Drew Deanovich (Lauren Huettl), 16:21.

Second period: BD – Lauren Huettl (TJ Lindeman, Morgan Brown), 1:08 (pp); Hattie Verstegen, 7:21; Alyssa Heim, 12:14. SP – Carson Sheridan (Olivia Thompson), 16:55.

Third period: SP – Amanda Bauer (Colleen Milligan), 7:10; Mackenzie Rosin, 9:32; Amanda Bauer (Camille Baker, Margo Thousand), 11:08. BD – Dayna Jones (Drew Deanovich, Alyssa Heim), 12:03.

Saves: SP (Taylor Thornton) 19, BD (Abby Okon) 24. Penalties: SP 5-10, BD 3-6.

BEAVER DAM CO-OP 5, SUN PRAIRIE CO-OP 4

Sun Prairie co-op 0 1 3 - 4

Beaver Dam co-op 1 3 1 - 5

First period: BD – Drew Deanovich (Lauren Huettl), 16:21.

Second period: BD – Lauren Huettl (TJ Lindeman, Morgan Brown), 1:08 (pp); Hattie Verstegen, 7:21; Alyssa Heim, 12:14. SP – Carson Sheridan (Olivia Thompson), 16:55.

Third period: SP – Amanda Bauer (Colleen Milligan), 7:10; Mackenzie Rosin, 9:32; Amanda Bauer (Camille Baker, Margo Thousand), 11:08. BD – Dayna Jones (Drew Deanovich, Alyssa Heim), 12:03.

Saves: SP (Taylor Thornton) 19, BD (Abby Okon) 24. Penalties: SP 5-10, BD 3-6.

Follow Mark on Twitter @mmcmull2.

Mark McMullen is currently a sports reporter for the Daily Citizen. He can be reached by email at mmcmullen@wiscnews.com or by phone at 920-356-6754. Can also follow him on Twitter at @mmcmull2.