The dream season for the South Central Cyclones Bantam A hockey team ended in the state semifinals in Wisconsin Rapiids on Saturday, as an overtime goal by the host Rapids team broke the hearts of the Cyclones.
After brushing past Eagle River with an 8-0 win in the opening game to move into the final four, the Bantam Cyclones battled back three times to even the score with Wisconsin Rapids, with the final game-tying goal coming in the final minute of regulation.
But, an overtime goal by Wisconsin Rapids lifted the home team to a 4-3 victory and forced the Cyclones to play for third place on Sunday. The Cyclones had a tough time rebounding from the tough loss, as they suffered at 5-2 loss to Rice Lake the following day, forcing them to settle for fourth place.
It was an emotional weekend for the Cyclones, who started the season with 21 straight wins.
“We had a little mid-season lull, but we played some really good teams and had some injuries,” head coach Billy Oakes wrote after the state tournament. “Our expectations were really high going into the state tournament, we expected to be in that championship game on Sunday, but that Rapids team is a really good team, they are very fast, physical and well coached.”
In the opener, the Cyclones cruised to an 8-0 win over Eagle River. The first two goals both came from Grant Marsich with feeds from CJ Pfaff and Trevor Slaght.
Marsich went on to score four goals in the game, Pfaff earning assists on all four. Oliver Scanlan added two goals with others for Slaght and Gabe Fitzwilliams. Slaght also finished with two assists. Other assists came from Luna Larson and Caden Jacobson.
Against Wisconsin Rapids, the Cyclones found themselves looking up at a one-goal deficit just 13 seconds into the game and they spent the remainder of the game either tied, or playing from behind.
Marsich tied the game the first time, once again with Pfaff providing the feed 3:30 into the contest.
Wisconsin Rapids added another goal late in the opening period, but Pfaff provided another assist 25 seconds into the second period, this time setting up Scanan to tie the game at 2.
Wisconsin Rapids moved in front early in the third period and then held off numerous chances before Slaght gathered a rebound from the top of the crease and fired it home just 25 seconds from the final buzzer to tie the game at 3. Jacobson picked up an assist on the goal.
The excitement of scoring the tying goal changed to devastation after Wisconsin Rapids got the winning goal just past the halfway mark of an 8-minute sudden-death overtime period.
“These kids made an incredible effort tying the game with 25 seconds left to send the game into OT, and (goaltender) Cooper (Oakes) kept us in the game with some great saves, but in the end we just ran out of gas.” wrote coach Billy Oakes.
The following day, the Cylcones returned to play Rice Lake in the third-place game. The game appeared to be slipping away from the Cyclones, as Rice Lake took a 3-0 lead into the final period.
The Cylcones rallied though, scoring two goals in the first 2:21 of the third period. The first Cylcones goal was scored by Slaght from Pfaff. Pfaff added the second goal on an assist from Dylan Conroy, but Rice Lake notched its fourth goal less than a minute later and added another just past the halfway mark.
The Cyclones end the season with a 34-9-3 record and as Dane County League champions. The team also won a tournament in Somerset, finished second in a tournament in Washington County and won the consolation at a tournament in Hayward.
“These boys worked hard all year and I am very proud of them,” wrote coach Oakes. “I've been coaching eight of them for the last eight years and we have been to state four times and won several league titles and tournaments. They have had tons of success.”