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Bay Port girls’ hockey players named all-conference

By Greg Bates

BROWN COUNTY – It wasn’t a typical season for the Bay Area Ice Bears girls’ hockey team, but that didn’t mean it didn’t come with plenty of awards.

Five players from the Bay Area – which is comprised of 11 Green Bay area teams – were named All-Eastern Shores Conference.

Every one of those athletes attends Bay Port.

Defenseman Josie Bender was chosen for the second team.

Forwards Jordan Brady, Ella Chilson and Makayla Spejcher, along with goalie Jenna Christophersen were awarded honorable mention.

“It was cool because we’re all from the same school, so we’re all close,” Bender said.

Also, Bender received the distinct honor of being named to the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association All-State second team.

Brady and Spejcher took home honorable mention recognition.

Getting rewarded as an all-state member was a big honor, said Bender.

“I was so excited I couldn’t even believe it at the state banquet when they announced me,” said Bender, who’s a junior. “It was the coolest feeling ever, and I’m happy my coaches have helped me and been hard on me, telling me what I need to work on so I can get to this point. They help me work hard every single day at practice. I have awesome teammates who make me want to come and work hard at practice.”

Ice Bears coach Eric Widas has watched Bender improve on the ice all three of her varsity seasons.

“That’s a huge honor,” Widas said. “There are lots of good players in the state, and she’s a player who stands out. She’s a puck-carrier for the defense. She starts every play to get the puck out of our zone. This year, she was leaned on more heavily than in the past with our other defensive corps being new to varsity hockey. We had a couple of players who were in their first year with the Ice Bears and their first year at the varsity level. We had a couple of freshmen getting some playing time, so she anchored the blue line and was a mentor for the younger players.”

Bender was second on the team in total points (23) with eight goals and 15 assists.

Before high school, Bender played forward, so she’s an offensive-minded defenseman.

“That helped me become a better defenseman because I saw the ice lots better,” she said. “I still try to sneak into plays to make things happen. I like to play a little offense while still being on defense.”

Widas said his star defenseman has become better at knowing when to bring the puck up the ice and not do an end rush like she did frequently as a freshman.

Widas said he was happy to see Brady and Spejcher earn all-state honorable mention status as well.

“There’s lots of competition out there for the all-state nominations, and they’re right there with them,” Widas said. “This year, with a lack of games and visibility, we normally would travel more and see some of the western teams. With us playing a smaller schedule and playing area teams more frequently, they had less exposure to other coaches who were doing the voting. They’re right up there skill-wise and talent-wise with the other girls who are all-state.”

Short, but solid season

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ice Bears weren’t able to start the season until after Christmas.

It was then hit with a COVID case and had to shut down for a bit.

The Ice Bears had to cancel their usual longer trips around the state to play some of the top teams.

Instead, they had to play some area teams multiple times to fill the schedule.

“We were happy to get some part of a season, but we struggled a bit,” said Widas. “We missed that month and a half of practice, and it took us up until playoffs to get in a groove.”

Bay Area earned a No. 4 seed in its regional and downed the Northern Edge, 14-2, in their opening-round playoff game.

Chilson had an eight-point game with a hat trick and five assists.

Brady had four goals and three assists.

The Ice Bears ended up losing the next game to the Fox Cities Stars, 3-1, to end their season and finished the year 6-6 overall.

“Our season went well,” Bender said. “I’m thankful we had a season since teams in Madison weren’t able to have a season. We did start late, but when we did start, we cleaned up nicely, and we came together and had a good season.”

All five of the team’s all-conference winners this season will be back next season.

“I’ve been working with these girls for three years – next year will be my fourth year – and they have been the top players since they were freshmen,” Widas said. “They’ve done nothing but growing for the last few years. We’re going into next season strong as a program with those five players who have dominated for all-conference and all-state. They’re good leaders on and off the ice and are good mentors for the younger girls. It’s going to be an exciting year.”

Editor’s note: To read a senior spotlight on Grace Cisar, an Ice Bears senior, CLICK HERE

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