Drew Deanovich scored a hat trick to lead the Warbirds/Beaver Dam co-op to a 5-2 victory over the University School co-op girls’ hockey team and send the Warbirds to the state tournament.
The WIAA Sectional 4 Sectional Final between the top-seeded Wildcats and the second-seeded Warbirds played at the Cornerstone Ice Center in Green Bay on Friday, February 23rd, was closer than the final score might indicate. The action went back and forth and gave the fans in attendance plenty of thrills. The Wildcats actually outshot the Warbirds 26-19 in the contest, and the score was just 3-2 with two minutes left in the game.
In those final two minutes, the Warbirds rose to the occasion. Deanovich scored an empty at net goal at 15:00. Deanovich then completed her hat trick by receiving a pass from Hattie Verstegen at the point and firing a bullet over the shoulder of Juliana Strother, the Wildcats’ goaltender, at 15:21 to seal the victory.
“It was a very good hockey game,” said Dan Carey, USM’s head coach. “The Warbirds are a very good team, and they just outscored us. We played well, but we couldn’t get the goals we needed.”
Abby Okon, the Warbirds goalie, frustrated the Wildcats throughout the game. She made 24 saves. Strother made 14 saves for the Wildcats.
The Warbirds scored the game’s first goal. Pinching in from the right point, Deanovich broke up a Wildcats’ breakout attempt. The puck popped free from the scrum, and she raced to get it. Unimpeded, she skated toward the crease and fired a shot. Strother stopped it, but the rebound came right back to Deanovich, who buried her second attempt at 7:05.
The Wildcats tied the game a few minutes later. As the Wildcats forechecked, Karly Lamoreaux stopped a Warbirds breakout high on the right boards. She skated with the puck to the high slot then passed it to one of her linemates, Jordan Bonk, while the other member of the line, Lexie Epperson, headed toward the net. Bonk quickly passed the puck to Epperson who had slipped below the goal line. Epperson saw Lamoreaux moving down the slot and passed the puck to her. Lamoreaux one-timed the oncoming puck past Okon at 9:03.
The Warbirds scored two unanswered goals in the second period. The first of these came on a power play. Verstegen won a battle for the puck in the Wildcats’ right corner and passed it to Alyssa Heim in the opposite corner. In turn, Heim passed it back. Verstegen then passed it out to Deanovich at the top of the right circle. Deanovich took a shot toward the far post, and Heim steered the puck into the net at 1:22.
The Warbirds increased their lead at 13:47. Rachel Bolin got the puck along the left boards in the Wildcats zone and passed it to Deanovich at the center point. Deanovich skated across the slot into the left circle, turned and fired a shot. Bolin, who had moved toward the crease shot the rebound past Strother to make the score 3-1.
The teams continue to battle. The Wildcats outshot the Warbirds 9-3 in the third period, and their constant efforts finally came to fruition. As the Wildcats forechecked vigorously, a Warbird defender tried to ameliorate the pressure by wiring the puck around the boards to clear it. Wildcat defenseman, Jenna Klenz snared the puck, stepped into the left circle and wired a shot toward the far post. The puck found the netting at 13:08.
The Wildcats had time to tie game, but Deanovich’s final two goals ended their threat.
The Warbirds are heading to Madison. At 12:15 p.m. on Friday, March 2nd they will face off in a State Tournament Semi-final game against the winner of Saturday’s Sectional 3 Final game between the Cap City Cougars and the Rock County Fury.
The Wildcats concluded the season with a fine 17-9 record. Reflecting on the season, Carey said, “This was a great group of girls, and I enjoyed coaching them this season. We did better than many people expected. To end up as one of the top eight teams in the state is a compliment to the way these girls played all season. It was fun, and I am already looking forward to coaching them again next year.”