Madison (WQOW) -- For the fifth-straight year, the Eau Claire Memorial hockey team takes the ice in Madison in preparation for the state tournament.
Winning at state is never easy and that's especially true of the state quarterfinal game, one the Old Abes have struggled with in the past.
"The Thursday game is the hardest game. We focus on the game, come out and play -- play the way coach wants us to and play within ourselves. We'll be successful if we do that," says senior defenseman Chuck Bennis.
"The Thursday game is always really important. You can't look past it and I think a lot of teams do that to where they short themselves out. Thursday's game has always been a big hurdle, with only a 2-1 victory over Whitefish Bay. It's going to be close and Thursday is going to be a key game in order for us to be successful down here," adds senior forward Jacob Bresser.
Memorial's first opponent is Green Bay Notre Dame, ranked as the top team in the state coming into the tournament. The Tritons beat the Old Abes 8-5 back on January 25th.
"There's no pressure on us. We know the beast from the East, Notre Dame, is number one. They're clear cut, the best team in the state without question. We're going to do our best job to keep it close," says head coach Mike Schwengler. "The biggest thing is to stay out of the penalty box. We want to utilize our whole bench and I know they do as well. If we can stay out of the box, get a couple power play chances and capitalize, that could be a key."
Both teams have state experience. Eau Claire Memorial is making it's fifth-straight trip to Madison, Notre Dame is down in Madison for the third-straight year. Both are explosive offensive teams, so getting a quick start tomorrow could be a big key.
"First goal, first momentum shift is going to be crucial in the game. Who's going to come out strong," adds Bresser. "We're going to work for those first five minutes and then on to the next five minutes and take it from there."
Eau Claire Memorial and Notre Dame will drop the puck around 2:15 P.M. on Thursday. If the Old Abes win, they'll play in the 6:00 P.M. semifinal on Friday.
The girls state tournament begins Friday. The St. Croix Valley Fusion play defending state runner-up Onalaska at around 2:15 P.M.
You can watch Saturday's championship games right here on WQOW 18.
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