During the first intermission of a game against the Cap City Cougars on Tuesday, Rock County Fury head coach Luke Steurer challenged his team.
Down one goal after a sloppy first period, Steurer challenged the area’s girls co-op high school hockey team to work harder.
“We talked a lot about winning the races to the puck and winning one-on-one battles, especially in the corner,” Steurer said. “We were gliding to the puck in the first period.”
The message was well received as the Fury (8-1-2) downed the Cougars (6-2-1) with two late goals to take a 2-1 Badger Conference victory.
Rock County won the first rivalry meeting of the season between the two teams that were unbeaten in Badger play. Cap City, out of Sun Prairie, beat the Fury in two overtimes in the WIAA sectional finals last year.
“We came out a little slow,” Rock County’s leading scorer, Maggy Henschler, said. “In the locker room after the first we focused on the basics of hockey. We talked about working hard and being sure that we were skating and backchecking.”
The Cougars scored the first goal of the game after a turnover caused the Fury to take a penalty. On the ensuing power play, the Cougars nailed home a fourth rebound attempt as Rock County failed to clear the puck.
Goalie McKaylie Buescher, a Milton High senior, also focused on working hard for the Fury, stopping a number of quality shots and closing the door after the blemish to finish with 25 saves and the win.
“She’s working hard,” Steurer said of his goalie. “She continues to get better and tonight she made the big saves to keep us in it.”
With just under eight minutes to go in the second, a Dani Heitsman laser on the power play evened the game at 1.
After battling back and forth for the rest of the second and trading scoring opportunities, the Fury got another chance on the power play with six minutes left in the game.
Henschler, a Milton senior, saw open ice and called for the puck in the high slot before sending a one-timer into the net to give the Fury the lead for good. The goal was Henschler’s team-leading 12th of the year and improved her lead in state scoring to 24 points through 11 games.
“We just started practicing the new power play yesterday,” Steurer said. “It’s a system that just clicked for them and the girls implemented it really well. It gets us more shots than the old one did and that change really paid off tonight.”
But the game changed before the Fury goals with a challenge to work hard. It’s a lesson that likely won’t soon be forgotten by the team.
“Whenever we’re here we work, work, work,” Henschler said. “All the younger girls are working as hard as the older girls and we want to make it as far into the season as we can.”
Her coach agreed.
“We’re just going to keep working hard every practice and every game. We have a lot of dedicated girls on this team that push each other and work hard to get better every day and that’s what we plan to do.”
The Fury travel to Viroqua on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game.
ROCK COUNTY 2, CAP CITY 1
Rock County 0 1 1—2
Cap City 1 0 0—1
CC—Amanda Bauer (Margo Thousand; Colleen Milligan), pp, 11:01.
RC—Dani Heitsman (Alyssa Knauf), pp, 10:03.
RC—Maggy Henschler (Abby Humphrey, Anika Einbeck), pp, 11:38.
Saves—McKaylie Buescher (RC) 25, Taylor Thornton (CC) 22.