Boys Hockey at the WIAA State Tournament
In a battle between two of Wisconsin’s high school hockey heavyweights, the Tritons of Green Bay Notre Dame rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat University School 5-3 in a Semifinal game of the WIAA Division 1 Boys Hockey State Tournament on Friday, March 6th at the
Notre Dame entered the match as the D1 tournament’s number 1 seed and ranked as number 1 in the state coach’s poll. The Tritons’ task was formidable. All they had to do was knock off the Wildcats, the defending state champions. USM was seeded 4th in the tournament.
The two teams had already locked horns earlier in the year, when the Tritons defeated the Wildcats 4-1. But this was a different situation. The stakes were far higher, and the action far more intense. This time, the two teams showed they both deserved to be in Madison fighting for a berth in Saturday’s 2020 state championship final.
Both goaltenders played well and gave their teammates impetus throughout the game. Patrick Kelly, USM’s net minder, stopped 24 of Notre Dame’s 29 shots. Notre Dame’s goalie, Bo Buckley, made 18 saves in the game.
The Wildcats leaped to the lead with two unanswered goals in the first period. Noah Eghbali scored them both. Just 5:03 into the game, Eghbali snared an errant Triton pass in the Notre Dame slot and swiftly fired the puck past Buckley.
Eghbali stunned the Tritons with another goal several minutes later. As the Tritons began a clearing play, Tyler Herzberg forechecked a defenseman, forcing him to cough up the puck. Herberg then buzzed a pass out front to Eghbali. Eghbali whipped the puck past Buckley at 9:41.
The Tritons seemed to surface in the second period. They outshot the Wildcats 11-6 in the period, but they weren’t able to score until 12:20.
Corbin Skinner finally put Notre Dame on the scoreboard. He intercepted a Wildcat clearing pass along the right boards near the USM blue line. He skated into the slot and gunned a shot past Kelly to give the Tritons new life.
The goal changed the game’s momentum. Notre Dame scored three straight goals in the third period and took command of the game.
The Tritons tied the score at 2-2 early in the period. Charlie Wied collected a loose puck just inside the Notre Dame blue line and skated unchecked through center ice. Heading into the USM zone, he pulled the puck away from defenseman, kicked it back to his stick as he moved in on Kelly, then fired a shot under the cross bar at 2:48.
Notre Dame took the lead at 7:34. Cycling the puck in the Wildcats’ right corner, Brandon Poshak bumped the puck back to Max McNeil in the corner. McNeil passed it to Sawyer Scholl in the near circle. Scholl stepped toward the net and took a shot. The puck hit Kelly but dropped to the ice and slithered across the goal line.
The goal gave the Tritons even more momentum, and they scored what would prove to be the game winner just under two minutes later. As the Tritons applied forechecking pressure, Josh DeLange got the puck in the right circle. He moved toward the net, then pushed a pass to Wied, who was covered near the edge of the crease. The puck hit Weid’s stick and caromed into the high slot. Riley Onell grabbed it and blazed a wrist shot past Kelly at 9:06.
The Wildcats refused to give up. They made things real tense with a beautiful goal at 13:34. From the Tritons’ right corner, Eghbali passed the puck to Blake Carey in the low slot. Realizing he had no angle, Carey passed it back. Eghbali then passed it to Herzberg in the high slot. Herzberg swiftly sizzled a shot past Buckley to make the score 4-3 and give the Wildcats’ a chance.
The Tritons weren’t going to let that happen. As the clock ticked down, they kept the puck in the USM zone and eventually scored once more. They got the puck in front and scrambled to push it past Kelly. Poshak had the presence of mind to pull it clear of the scrum, skate around the crowd and fire the puck into the net. Callan Budinger and
Reid Milton were awarded assists on the goal that drowned the Wildcats’ hopes and assured Notre Dame a spot in the State Championship game.
Notre Dame takes a 25-1-1 record into the Division 1 State Tournament’s Final against Verona, the only team to defeat the Tritons this season. The Championship game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 7th at the Alliant Energy Center.
The Wildcats ended their reign as state champions with a record that deserves to be part of USM’s long hockey history. USM finished the season at 20-7-1.