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Girls Hockey vs. Fox Cities

The defending girls’ hockey state champion, the Fox Cities Stars, looks ready to go for a third in a row. They opened the 2020-21 season on Friday, November 27th by trouncing the University School co-op 7-1 in a non-conference game at the Tri-County Arena in Neenah.

The Stars stunned the Wildcats. They got right down to their title defense, scoring a goal in the first 29 seconds and adding another before three minutes had elapsed in the lopsided contest. They added a third in the first period, three more in the second, and a final one in the third.

Overall, the home team outshot the visitors, 38-20. The shots the Stars took showed power. The Wildcats starting goaltender, Sami Stommel faced 25 shots and turned aside 19. Molly Jex replaced Stommel at the start of the third period. The freshman stopped 12 of the 13 shots the Stars blasted at her.

At the other end of the ice, the Stars’ freshman goalie, Tanith Plachetka, stopped 19 of the 20 shots the Wildcats took.

“We faced a really strong team tonight, and, frankly, we were caught off guard by their speed and physicality,” said Dan Carey, USM’s head coach. Trying to stay positive, Carey added, “We saw some improvement as the game went on, and several girls experienced their first varsity game. We have a lot of work to do, but I liked the way we played in the third period.”

From the drop of the puck to start the game, the Stars out-hustled and out-muscled the Wildcats. They got the puck into the Wildcats’ end and forechecked ferociously. Eventually, junior McKayla Zilisch took the puck from a defender on the left sideboards. She wheeled into the slot and fired a bullet. Stommel stopped it but the rebound went to the Stars’ freshman Grace Rentmeester who fired another shot. The next rebound went Zillisch who batted it in at 0:29.

Rentmeester made it 2-0 just 2:26 into the game when sophomore Mikayla Dorton’s pass between the USM defense sent her in for a breakaway goal.

The Stars scored their third goal a few minutes further into the contest. Zillich went into the Wildcats’ end on a rush. A defenseman meekly knocked the puck from her stick, but as she kept going Zillich reached wide, grabbed it, then snapped a shot past Stommel at 9:09.

The Wildcats looked like they might make a comeback when they scored their lone goal. They got the puck into the Stars end and forechecked. A Star defender knocked the puck away from senior center Jordan Bonk’s stick. It went to the left point to senior Zoe Uihlein, who then sent a D-to-D pass to her partner, sophomore Lily Valimont, on the right. Valimont blazed a low shot through a screen and past Plachetka at 12:35 of the first period.

There was plenty of time left for the Wildcats to move closer, but the Stars foiled them. Late in the opening period, Plachetka took all the space away from a breakaway chance and kept the score 3-1.

The Stars then took the wind from the Wildcats’ chances with two goals early in the second period.

Once again, the Stars opened the period with some serious forechecking. Freshman Lily Schmear sent a pass to senior defenseman Shelby Hewitt at the point. Hewitt stepped in and fired. The rebound trickled to Zillich, whose stick was on the ice. Zillich gained her hat trick by popping the puck into the net at 1:06.

Less than a minute later it was 5-1, Stars. Junior Ella Fossum stopped a Wildcat clearing attempt near the blue line and fired the puck at the net. Junior Zoey Van Zeeland was in front, and she tipped it in at 6:41.

A five-on-three power-play goal at 6:17 by junior Izze Murphy gave the Stars a 6-1 lead. Zillich and Rentmeester had assists on the play.

The Stars came with more firepower in the third period, but Jex stood strong in goal, allowing just one goal. Zillich scored it on a scramble in front at 0:47. Rentmeester and junior Gwen Gillard were awarded assists on the goal. The goal was Zillich’s fourth of the game; it gave the Stars a six-goal lead; plus it put the clock on running time thereafter. Although the Wildcats put up a better fight in the final period, their fate was already sealed.

The Stars are now 1-0 and 0-0 in the Eastern Shores Conference. They host Northern Edge in a non-conference game at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 28th  at the Tri-County Arena in Neenah.

The Wildcats are now 0-1 and 0-0 in the Eastern Shores Conference. They play the Brookfield Glacier in an Eastern Shores Conference game at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1st at the Ponds in Brookfield.