Madison (WQOW) -- Making it down to state is starting to become routine for the Eau Claire Memorial hockey team. For the fourth-straight year, and thirteenth time overall, the Old Abes are on the ice at Veterans Memorial Coliseum for a Wednesday skate around.
Each team gets 45 minutes on the ice here at the Coliseum. For Eau Claire Memorial, they're pretty familiar with this state tournament routine. Although, the last three trips didn't end the way that the Old Abes wanted them to. Two overtime losses in the semifinals followed by an overtime quarterfinal loss to Brookfield last year that really stung.
"That really killed us and put us down, but we really picked it up this summer and told ourselves it wouldn't happen again. So we're trying to get a 'W' in the first round this time," says junior forward Jacob Bresser.
Junior forward Charley Graaskamp agrees, saying: "Obviously we left here with a bad taste in our mouths and just getting down here again just motivates us to flip the script and come back down with a better attitude and try to succeed."
"Ever since we ended last year, kids realized what we left on the table. The bottom line was, you can't make a game about yourself, you can't make a game down here your own personal showcase. And as long as we play the way we're supposed to play, it gives us a chance to win and that's all we can hope for," adds head coach Mike Schwengler.
Thursday at 6 p.m., it's another co-op from the Milwaukee area, Whitefish Bay/Nicolet/Shorewood, a team Memorial has gotten to know a little bit over the last couple of days.
"They have some strong defenseman who move the puck well, but they also chip the puck and have forwards who fly the zone a lot. So we're going to have to watch back defensively," says senior forward Brady Bollinger.
Memorial says they must stick to what they know to be successful on Thursday.
"Obviously it's a bigger stage, but we have to play our Old Abes hockey like we have been lately," says Bresser. "Just keep everything the same, don't change anything just because we're on bigger ice, in a bigger arena, it's all going to be the same."
Schwengler adds: "They're looking for opportunities to get 1-0 breaks, 2-1 breaks and the staple of what we do is try to minimize teams odd-man rushes. So our defenseman have to be aware and vocal and our forwards have to do a good job of pinning them deep."
Eau Claire Memorial faces the Whitefish Bay Co-op in a state quarterfinal game, Thursday at 6:00 p.m. You can watch the boys and girls state title games, Saturday, on WQOW-New 18 and online on www.wqow.com. New this year, the state title games will be streamed for mobile devices.
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