Tough act to follow
BY RICH PALZEWIC
GREEN BAY – The 2017-18 version of the Bay Area Ice Bears girls’ hockey team will have a tough act to follow.
Making it all the way to the state title game a season ago, Bay Area will look to replace nine players from that runner-up team this year.
The Ice Bears are a co-op program in the Green Bay area comprised of players from Ashwaubenon (three), Bay Port (six), De Pere (two), Notre Dame (six), Preble (three), Pulaski (three), Southwest (two) and West De Pere (four).
Bay Area will open up its season on Friday, Nov. 24, when they travel to the Mullett Ice Center in Hartland for the two-day tournament.
“We have an unbelievably talented team again,” said head coach Brandon Erkkila. “I think we will be more than fine. We lost nine (girls) but we gained 10, and have girls that are ready to step up. A lot of good players graduated across the state last year but I still think Eau Claire and Hudson will be really good. We have great depth and will be one of the only teams in the state to run three lines of forwards. We will wear teams down.”
Bay Area plays in the rugged Eastern Shores Conference and ended last season with a 21-5-3 overall record and 7-2 in conference play. They lost a 2-1 state finals contest to the Central Wisconsin Storm in overtime. Leading 1-0 with just over two minutes remaining, the Storm tied the game and then won it five minutes into OT.
“You have those moments where all of a sudden you think about last year,” Erkkila said. “We were very close and the girls were happy to get where we got. It was a hard-fought game. We understood going into the season that our goal was to win a state title.”
Bay Area has a very talented senior foreign-exchange student this season in Katerina Zrnova from the Czech Republic that should help replace some of the talent lost to graduation.
“She is unreal,” added Erkkila. “I’m still trying to comprehend what she can do. It’s like (Ashwaubenon junior) Mia Dunning – you’re getting paid to watch these girls practice and it’s just unbelievable. Katerina’s ability to handle the puck is phenomenal. She’s not only a great player but a great human being.”
Zrnova has a strong resume of playing in Europe.
“I played for the national team in Czech,” said Zrnova. “I feel like this team is a big family. We have a big goal to win the championship and I think we can do this – we have an amazing team.”
A few returning players with the most points from a season ago are Dunning (25 points), seniors Abby Anderson (Notre Dame, 22), Jordyn Kadrlik (Bay Port, 14), Talia Boyea (Bay Port, 5) and junior Kalli Mikesch (Bay Port, 17).
Notre Dame goalie Ana Holzbach is not back with the team this year but Delaney Butterfield (Notre Dame) is ready to step in.
“Delaney has waited three years for this and has sat her time,” Erkkila said. “She has waited and deserves this. Besides our change in goaltender, I don’t see any reason why we can’t end up right back where we were last year.”
Bay Area’s biggest losses will be Johanna Cano (Bay Port, 30), Morgan Zirbel (Ashwaubenon, 25), Megan Saari (Notre Dame, 23), Olivia Newman (Bay Port, 16), Allie Hartter (Bay Port, 11) and Ashley Raisbeck (Bay Port, 9).
Notes: for a complete roster and schedule CLICK HERE.
Mikesch is the younger sister of Austin Mikesch, the 2017 Fox River Classic Conference player of the year. Kalli’s father, Pat Mikesch, is also the head coach of the Green Bay Gamblers.