Fury, Cougars battle to 0-0 tie

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Jim Franz/Beloit Daily News Haley Knauf (5) of the Rock County Fury controls the puck against the Cap-City Cougars Thursday.

BELOIT - The Edwards Ice Arena scoreboard might have read 0-0 after eight minutes of bonus hockey Thursday night and they weren't outright celebrating, but Olivia Cronin and her Rock County Fury were in agreement.

The were chalking up this rivalry game with the Cap-City Cougars as a "half-win."

They weren't going to get any arguments from head coach Luke Steurer.

"It was a battle every period and we were just grinding away," Steurer said. "We played just two lines all game just trying to stay up there with them. I think we were tired after the first period, but we kept pushing each other to keep going.

"I really feel like this would be a half-win because we played three-plus great periods. We've struggled at times this season, but we're getting more and more where we're playing a complete game."

The Fury (4-3-1, 2-0-1) went into the Badger Conference matchup without one of their top defenseman, Cammi Ganshert, who had a conflict. with a school choir concert

"I was impressed with our four defensemen, especially our two freshmen, stepping up and doing an excellent job," Steurer said. "We came out physical. We knew that was how they were going to play and we had to match that."

There are no surprises when these teams face off.

"I don't think either one of us can surprise the other anymore," Steurer said. "We know it's going to be a grind to the end and it will come down to who wants it more."

Apparently they both wanted it plenty this time around. Fury goaltender Olivia Cronin ended up with 30 saves, including six in overtime. Her counterpart for the Cougars, Jenna Jager, had 28 with three coming in OT.

"Olivia did an outstanding job," Steurer said. "She had two or three shots in-a-row off rebounds that he was moving all over that crease to make those stops. She really stood on her head to keep that puck out of the net."

The Fury's best shot to break the ice with a goal came in the second period when they had at least two solid opportunities with a breakaway and a rebound in the crease. But they came up empty.

Still it wasn't for lack of trying.

"I'm proud of the team for what we accomplished," junior wing Sara Nerad said. "Playing just the two lines we were probably dead after the first shift. But you have to keep with it, pace yourself and don't let your emotions get into it. Stay level-headed. I think the next time will be a tough battle again."

Cronin will be ready. While fatigue can cause a mental lapse here or there, when you're playing goalie you can't afford any. It would be particularly deadly against a team like the Cougars which keeps the pressure on full.

"Mentally this game was tough," the freshman said. "I just could never lose focus. I wanted it over, but part of me was also telling me to keep fighting. It ended 0-0, but that's better than a loss. We have some things to work on, but I think this was our best game of the year so far."

• UP NEXT: The Fury will shift to the Janesville Ice Arena on Dec. 18 when they host the Madison Metro Lynx (2-4-0) at 7:30 p.m. The Lynx are a co-op between Middleton, Madison West, Madison Memorial, Edgewood, Verona and Mount Horeb.

• NOTES: The Cougars (3-2-1, 2-0-1) had five penalties while the Fury had three. Neither team was penalized in the eight-minute OT. ...The Cougars are the Sun Prairie Co-op that also includes players from DeForest, Madison East, La Follette and Waunakee. There are 27 players on their roster.

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