The Wausau West boys hockey team is state-bound for the eight time in the last 10 years.
“This is a program that is near and dear to my heart, being a player here…another state title would just be a proud, proud moment for the program,” head coach Brian Brandt Jr. said.
Just four game into their season, with a 2-2 record, it looked like the Warriors would struggle. West had a particularly young team, with only five players who had previously made it to Madison.
“Getting back to state feels amazing,” Warriors forward Sam Techel said. “I haven’t felt this good since my sophomore year. We had that heart breaker last year and that was an awful feeling, so I am going to give it everything I’ve got and hopefully we’ll get a win.”
Brandt Jr. says the inexperienced guys learned a lot, played well down the stretch and bought into what the Warriors hockey program is all about.
“Those guys who have experience did a really good job of letting the inexperienced guys know what it’s about and what the expectations are,” Brandt Jr. said.
The Warriors face Waukesha-North Co-op in the quarterfinals. West’s biggest challenge will be beating the Wings netminder, Garrett Larsen, who sports a .935 save percentage.
As much as coach Brandt Jr. wants to tell his guys it’s like any other game, he knows what is at stake.
“I always tell the guys, you want to have a reason to come back in 10 years,” Brandt Jr. said. “There are reunions and things like that. Those are where the stories get told, the camaraderie comes out.”
#2 Wausau West plays in Game-3 of the quarterfinals against #7 Waukesha North Co-op, Thursday at 4 p.m.