In a year filled with more than its fair share of challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin-Superior rose above them to savor a thrilling a moment.
Facing off against one of the premier programs in the country in Wisconsin-Stevens Point, on the road no less, the Yellowjackets rallied for a 3-2 win over the Pointers to win the WIAC tournament championship at K.B. Willett Arena.
Down two goals, UW-Superior cut its deficit to one before the end of the second period and then lit up the scoreboard for two more goals in the third to capture their first tourney championship in a decade.
It is their eighth WIAC title overall and the first since 2011. They program has 17 conference crowns in all when the its years in the NCHA are included.
The title also punctuates a five-year journey to a moment head coach Rick McKenna dreamed about when he took over in 2016.
Levi Cudmore provided the game winner. Controlling the puck off a shot by Chad Lopez, Cudmore punched it in with 6:36 to play in regulation.
Neither team scored in the opening period but the Pointers ended that tie with a goal by Colin Raver. Carter Roo’s goal made it 2-0.
Coltyn Bates ended the shutout on a goal at the 11:41 mark and the Yellowjackets went into the final period trailing 2-1.
Lopez struck at the 9:12 mark to tie the game at 2-2. Cudmore assisted on the goal.
Myles Hektor did his part to help ensure the Yellowjackets would hang on for the win. He stopped 22 shots, including four in the final period. UW-Superior held a 32-24 advantage in shots. For Hektor, the win was his fourth of the year. He is unbeaten this season.
UW-Superior advanced to the final after its semifinal matchup with Wisconsin-River Falls was canceled because of COVID-19 protocol. Those two teams had split their regular-season meetings, with UW-Superior winning 2-1 on Feb. 24 and losing 4-2 on Feb. 25. That loss was the last for the Yellowjackets, who end the shortened season on a four-game winning streak.
The Yellowjackets won their opener in the tourney by a 2-1 score over Wisconsin-Stout.
With no NCAA tournament this year because of the pandemic, the Yellowjackets wrap up their season with a 7-3 record.