Boys Hockey vs. St. Mary's Springs
The University School boys hockey team is headed to the state tournament in Madison. The Wildcats put a check next to that season goal with a resounding defeat of the St. Mary’s Springs’ Ledgers in the Sectional 8 final of the WIAA playoffs on Friday, February 22nd at the Blue Line Center Ice Arena in Fond du Lac.
USM arrived ready to play. Their focus was aided by a year-long revenge factor. The Ledgers upset the Wildcats 1-0 in the 2018 Sectional Final. The Wildcats had no plans to suffer another harrowing bus ride back to Milwaukee in 2019.
Jason Woods, USM’s head coach commented on the Wildcats efforts to achieve victory in the game, “Congrats to our boys on their trip to Madison. Not only are they elite players, but they are also elite people as well. I continue to be amazed by their drive and commitment. They show up to work every day. The coaches worked hard to coordinate a game plan vs Springs, and the boys ran it to near perfection. Believe me, Springs is no joke, they are an outstanding team, clearly one of the more underrated in the state. This was a great win as we work to continue our journey.”
It didn’t take long for the USM players to demonstrate their determination. Seeking a line change the Ledgers dumped the puck deep into the USM end. Defenseman Casey Roepke retrieved it. He spun and whipped a stretch pass to Robby Newton at the Ledgers’ line on the far side of the wide ice from the Springs’ bench. Unchallenged, Newton sped into the zone along the right boards and whizzed a wrist shot inside the far post past Tyler Arnold, St. Mary’s Springs starting goalie, just 44 seconds into the contest.
The Ledgers scored the game’s next goal a few minutes later. Noah Pickart received a regroup pass from Mitchell Heuettl in center ice and skated into the Wildcats’ end along the right boards. As he moved in, Pickart passed the puck to Jack Sabel at the point and continued toward the net. Sabel gunned a shot that struck the pads of USM’s starting goaltender, Patrick Kelly. Pickart was moving toward the net and snapped the rebound past Kelly at 3:34.
The Ledgers’ goal did not stop the Wildcats. They quickly scored again. Defenseman Alex Thundercloud chased down another Ledgers’ dump in behind the USM net. He passed it up the right boards to newton, who took off like jet on a mission. Newton flew into the Ledgers zone then crossed a pass to his line mate Tyler Herzberg who one-timed the puck past Arnold at 4:38 for what would be the eventual game winning goal.
The Ledgers had a chance to tie the score again when Zack Welch went in on Kelly on a breakaway during a USM power play. Welsch deked Kelly, but his shot rang off the post and did not bounce in.
The shots in the game were equal at 18 for each team, but the Wildcats made four more of their shots count, while keeping the Ledgers off the scoreboard in the final two periods.
The Wildcats increased their lead in the opening moments of the second period. Newton broke up a breakout play by St. Mary’s Springs by knocking the puck away from a Ledger player in the high slot. Herzberg beat the player to the loose puck. Herzberg zinged a pass to Blake Carey in front of the net and, like a traffic cop, Carey directed the puck past Arnold at 1:22.
Just a couple of minutes later, USM led 4-1. Skating the puck out of the USM end, Thundercloud head-manned it to Herzberg and kept skating. As Herzberg crossed the Ledgers’ blue line, he saw Thundercloud hustling goalward past the Springs’ defensemen. Herzberg fired the puck toward the net and Thundercloud’s undiminished momentum moved it into the net at 3:18.
The Wildcats scored again at 7:45 of the second period. Skating into the Springs’ zone, Sterling Cooke passed the puck to Carson Mogush. Mogush cut toward the left boards then passed it back to Cooke as Cooke moved into the near circle. Cooke snapped a shot past Arnold for the goal.
The Ledgers replaced Arnold with Joey Koleno. The Wildcats put their final goal past Koleno early in the third period. As he skated into the Ledgers’ end, Newton was joined by defenseman Jacob Como. Newton moved to the left drawing the defenseman and opening a lane for Como. Newton dished the puck to Como who moved in and lifted a backhander past Koleno at 15:55.
With 3:18 left in the game, the Wildcats replaced Kelly with Frank Fee and the Ledgers replaced Koleno with Chase Lau. So in the game, Kelly made 14 saves and Fee made 3. Arnold stopped 5 USM shots while Koleno stopped 7. Lau did not make a save.
The Ledgers concluded their season with a record of 11-10-2.
The Wildcats head to Madison for the state tournament with a record of 25-2. They will play in a quarterfinal game on Thursday, February 28th but must await the results of Saturday’s other Sectional games to see what seed they get in the tournament and what opponent they will face as they work toward their ultimate goal.