Eau Claire, Hudson (WQOW) -- The 47th annual WIAA State Boys Hockey Tournament begins on Thursday, and for the 18th time overall and for the 11th time in the last twelve years, Eau Claire Memorial is making a trip to Madison.
It's also the ninth straight trip for the Old Abes, and while they celebrated after their win over Eau Claire North in the sectional final, they're hoping for a bigger and better celebration this Saturday. The Abes are looking to duplicate what the 2008 and 2013 Memorial teams did, which is win a state title.
"It would mean everything to get that state championship," says Memorial junior forward Brenden Olson, "we've been working so hard all year and just really doing the little things right and our whole composure with our team and everyone's working hard, everyone's buying in, we just gotta keep doing what we're doing."
"All the teams down there are good and if you don't play good you're probably going to lose," says Memorial senior forward Ben Zacho, "we've just got to not take anyone for granted, and just play like they're the best team we play all year."
Eau Claire Memorial is the #2 seed for the tourney, will face off against West Salem/Bangor, Thursday, at 4:00 P.M., at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Abes had a 6-3 win over the Panthers this regular season at the Showdown in Titletown Tournament.
The 17th-annual WIAA State Girls Hockey Tournament gets started on Friday with the semifinals. The Eau Claire Area Stars will be making their first-ever appearance at state. Head coach Tom Bernhardt coached Eau Claire North to the boys state tourney in 2006, and he says this Stars team definitely earned its trip to Madison.
"They deserve it, I tell you," Bernhardt says, "that's a group of kids that you know, in the locker room, on the bus, at practice, during games, there a very easy group to coach and a very enjoyable group to coach, and I'm very happy that they're rewarded with a trip to the state tournament."
The Stars will face the defending state champion Central Wisconsin Storm in the 10:00 A.M. semifinal, Friday. The Stars took two of three regular season games against the Storm.
For the WIAA's news release previewing the state boys and girls hockey tournaments, click here.