The Baraboo/Portage boys hockey team is on its first three-game winning streak of the season.
The latest win extended the season for at least three more days, as the Thunderbirds rolled to a 7-0 WIAA regional semifinal win over the Viroqua co-op Monday at the Pierce Park Hockey Rink in Baraboo.
“We looked better and better as the game went on,” Baraboo/Portage goalie Andy Waldvogel said. “Our guys are playing well at the right time here and they’re excited for Thursday. The last three games have been really fun.
“I’m proud of how the guys have come together here at the end of the year. I can’t say enough good things about how we’ve finished.”
The Thunderbirds (7-16) had their most lopsided win of the season on Monday, recording their first shutout of the season while scoring a season-high seven goals. The T-Birds’ previous season high came during a 6-4 holiday tournament win over Tomahawk on Dec. 29.
Baraboo/Portage took a little while to get going on Monday. Joe Zemanovic and Cameron Logan eventually broke the scoreless tie. Zemanovic fired a shot from the point with 7 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the first period. Logan was parked in front of Viroqua goalie J.J. Hertel and redirected the puck into the back of the net to give the T-Birds a 1-0 lead.
“I think we were in control. It just took a while to show up on the scoreboard,” Waldvogel said. “Once we scored that first goal, guys started to settle in a little bit.”
Josh Beale nearly extended the lead when he hit the goalpost 2 minutes later, while Baraboo/Portage goalie Dane Hinz made a nice glove save to maintain the lead with 2:48 remaining.
The T-Birds carried the 1-0 lead into the second period, where they broke it completely open.
Beale connected on his next long-range shot. The junior forward’s shot hit the pipe and caromed into the net for an unassisted power-play goal with 11:02 to play in the second period. Zemanovic tacked on another goal with 6:45 to go in the second on an assist from Luna Larson and Gabe Fitzwilliams. The T-Birds capped off the second period when Larson and Logan assisted Koseor for a goal with 2:27 remaining.
“We told the guys during intermission that we have to continue to find the gas pedal and not let them wiggle back in,” Waldvogel said.
Mission accomplished, as the lead continued to grow from there. Zemanovic got another one with 13:36 to play in the game, while Zemanovic and Beale assisted Will Gunnell for a goal that gave Baraboo/Portage a 6-0 lead with 7:15 to go. The final goal of the night went to George Fitzwilliams, who received assists from Alex Brown and Cade Mattson with 3:46 remaining.
The T-Birds outshot Viroqua (1-21) by a 51-11 margin, with Hinz saving all 11 shots to tally his first shutout of the year.
It was the third win in four days for the T-Birds, who closed the regular season with Badger North Conference wins over the Sauk Prairie co-op and DeForest.
The win puts Baraboo/Portage in a familiar position, as its the third straight year the T-Birds have opened the tournament with a regional semifinal win. The run ended there the last two years, as they lost to Onalaska in 2017 and Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston in 2018.
The T-Birds will get a chance at payback on Thursday, as they will play the second-seeded Reedsburg co-op (17-4-2) in Thursday’s regional final at Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Lake Delton. R/WD/M claimed a 5-2 win in the regional final last year on the way to advancing to the sectional finals before falling to West Salem/Bangor.
Baraboo/Portage suffered a pair of losses to the Reedsburg co-op during the regular season, dropping a 4-2 home loss on Jan. 4 and a 5-1 road loss on Feb. 1.
“It’s just going to be a matter of us playing our game,” Waldvogel said. “They’re a good team. And if we put three full periods together, we’re a good team, too. ... It’s going to be a great Badger North Conference game.”
Viroqua Co-op 0 0 0 — 0
Baraboo/Portage 1 3 3 — 7
First period: BP — Logan (Zemanovic), 9:05.
Second period: BP — Beale, 5:58 (pp). BP — Zemanovic (L. Larson, Ga. Fitzwilliams). BP — Koseor (L. Larson, Logan).
Third period: BP — Zemanovic, 3:24. BP — Gunnell (Beale, Zemanovic), 9:45. BP — Ge. Fitzwilliams (Brown, Mattson), 13:14.
Saves: V (Hertel) 44, BP (Hinz) 11. Penalties: V 3-6, BP 3-6.