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2013 Boys' State Tournament Preview

02/26/2013, 10:00am CST
By Bill Berg

Quarterfinal Thursday previews

The predictions belong to their respective authors and should not be considered consensus predictions endorsed by Wisconsin Prep Hockey.

Quarterfinal #1, Wausau West vs Verona

Game 1 Of the Wiaa State Boys Hockey Quarterfinals features a pair of number 1 seeds with different styles of hockey.
 
Wausau West comes in with a 14-9-2 record while playing one of the toughest schedules in the state. West has played 5 of the other state qualifiers, and played 16 games against teams who were in the Top Ten during the season at one time including top ranked NDA twice. While in the playoffs West played two games against Top Ten teams winning both including a 5-3 win over WVC Champion SPASH .
 
Wausau West does not have the high octane offense its had over the last 2 seasons, but returns Kevin Conley who led the team in scoring with 27 points. Tanner Gould has chipped in with 10 goals and 13 total points, and Zach Peterson who had 11 goals and 17 total points.

Where Wausau West does excel is in net with Sam Wiegert, who had a save percent of.920 in the regular season with a goals against of 1.92. Playoffs were a different story when Wiegert's numbers went to a save percent of .946 and a goals against of 1.33.

Special teams have been a good area for the Warriors, as a 17.7%  powerplay is eclipsed by a stingy penalty kill of 87.3%.
 
Verona comes to state as the Big Eight Champions going undefeated 14-0 in conference play.  While Wausau West played 16 games against Top Ten teams Verona played 7 in that category going 5-2. Their only game against a state qualifier was against NDA and were shut out 7-0 at home.
 
Verona has a very high scoring offense averaging 5.7 goals a game, and giving up 1.71 a game.  The powerplay has been a whopping 36% this year while the pk is a good 82%.  Verona is led by a pair of high scoring and talented forwards in Zac Keryluk and Zach Jones. Jones comes in with 52 points on the season and Keryluk with 39. But in between them is Junior Charlie Parker who comes in with 46 points. While West has one player with over 20 points Verona has 7 including 4 players with more points than Wests
top scorer.
 
Verona quietly has put together a nice defensive squad with Phillipe Fromberger and Pat Stevens leading the way.  Goaltending has been split between Jon Fiala and Alex Jones. The freshman Jones has played the bulk of the games with a combined save percentage of the netminders near .90% and a gaa of about 1.83.
 
With the high scoring Verona Wildcats look to be the favorite, Wausau West has played the much stronger schedule.  With that being said,does Verona have enough in net to stop the scoring by committee of West, and does West have enough to slow down the very deep Wildcats. 
 
MJ's Pick:  Verona squeaks out a 5-4 win, but let the game play out, and good luck to both teams.

Quarterfinal #2, Wisconsin Rapids vs Notre Dame Academy

Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders (18-8-0) has spent most of the season outside of the top ten, but has had an impressive season.  Rapids finished in fourth place in the Wisconsin Valley conference behind:  Stevens Point; Wausau West and D. C. Everest.  The Red Raiders have put together three straight shutouts in the post-season.  They have defeated LaCrosse Logan/Central in the Regional Finals 6-0; Sauk Prairie in the Sectional Semifinals 3-0 and West Salem in the Sectional Finals 3-0.

Caleb Schroer lead the Red Raiders in scoring during the regular season with 18 goals, 15 assists.  He has 4 goals and 2 assists in the playoffs.  Luc Kreuser is second on the team with 15 goals and 14 assists in the regular season.  Matt Edwards is third with 8 goals and 18 assists.

Defensively Wisconsin Rapids is lead by Blake Olinyk (5g, 10a) and Casey Esselman (5g, 9a).  Tyler Gilbert finished the regular season with an .891 save percentage and 2.72 GAA.  The post season has been a different story, Gilbert has three straight shutouts recording 77 saves with 62 of them in the last two games.

 

Notre Dame Academy Tritons (22-1-2) has been the #1 ranked team in the state from the start of the season.  The sole loss on the season came between two ties in the final three games of the season with the loss and one tie coming against Michigan teams.  The Tritons outscored their opponents 123-35 during the regular season averaging 5.48 goals per game, while allowing 1.52 goals per game. 

Notre Dame had four players finish the regular season with 30 points or more:  Brett Gruber (22 g, 23 a); Mason Appleton (15 g, 21 a); Luke Davison (3 g, 28 a) and Steven Phillips (17 g, 13 a).

Luke Davison and Grant Kluesner lead the Tritons defensively.

Junior Eli Hicks was solid all year in the net (.917 save pct, 1.45 gaa) with 6 shutouts.

Del’s Take:

Notre Dame allows 17 shots on goal per game and place 41 shots on goal.  Wisconsin Rapids allow 23 shots on goal per game and place 31 shots on goal.  The Red Raiders will be hard pressed to keep up with the second and third lines of the Tritons.  On paper, people will tell you this is a complete mismatch and Notre Dame should run away and hide.  However, paper can’t reveal what is in a player’s heart or mind.

Final:  NDA 7, Wisconsin Rapids 2

Quarterfinal #3, Whitefish Bay vs. Eau Claire memorial

Eau Claire Memorial is making their fourth consecutive trip to Madison with a powerful offense lead by Jacob Bresser and Team Wisconsin forwards Charley Graaskamp and Brady Bollinger, while Whitefish Bay/Nicollet/Shorewood is making its first trip to Madison, lead by Player of the Year finalist Thomas Aiken.

Whitefish Bay (21-4-1) was the fourth seed in the very even section 7.  They had to beat top seed KMMO in overtime, and eeked out a one-goal win over two seed Waukesha to get to Madison.

Most of Whitefish Bay's scoring comes from their top line of Djordje Torbica (31g, 26a), Drew Kneisel (17g, 28a) and Andy Krugler (24g, 19a) while a ton of help coming from Thomas Aiken (8g, 41a) and Andy Keith (9g, 24a) on the blue line.

When it comes to stopping Eau Claire Memorial, WNS coach Maco Balkovec said, "I think you just have to try to contain them, obviously with 3 guys from TW they are incredibly skilled and well coached by Mike so we will have to have a great book on them, watch a lot of film, and get our guys prepared to handle that.  I know we'll be ready."

Sean Leahy will be kept busy, but he was fantastic this season, putting up a 1.90 GAA and a .923 sv% that included six shutouts.

Eau Claire Memorial (19-6-1) is the most potent offense WNS has faced this season, putting up 4.9 goals per game, while playing a very difficult schedule.

The top three forwards, Jacob Bresser (31g, 19a), Brady Bollinger (20g, 30a) and Charley Graaskamp (17g, 28a) are insanely good at converting turnovers into goals. Three of ECM's five goals in the sectional final against RMB were on turnovers and RMB mistakes.

It was a tough road at the start of the season for Eau Claire Memorial with three of their top six defensemen gone, losing one to juniors, one quit hockey to focus on baseball and the third had a broken ankle, not returning until Christmas. "So our top 3 D from last year were gone and we were very young with a very inexperienced goalie," said coach Mike Schwngler. "We moved a couple guys back to d and taught them the position and that helped settle everything down.  Since their 2-3-1 start, the Old Abes have gone 18-3.

Goaltender Alex Geving finished the regular season with a 2.79 GAA and .871 sv%. In the post season, he's improved to a 2.14 GA and .896 sv%.

webjr's Take:
Eau Claire Memorial is better up front, Whitefish Bay is better from the blue line on back.  Not only have these two teams not met this season, they only have one opponent in common.  On Feb 9 ECM beat Homestead 5-3. On Dec 22 WNS beat Homestead 4-1, and on Feb 2 they beat Homestead 6-5.

Eau Claire Memorial possesses an offense unlike any that WNS has seen this season and a capitalizes on mistakes better than anybody.  Whitefish Bay is a solid fundamental team with several high level contributors.

Final: Eau Claire Memorial 4 (w/ an Empty Netter), Whitefish Bay 2

Quarterfinal #4, Superior vs Fond du Lac

If you are a fan of offensive creativity and puck movement, you're gonna love this game. Superior and Fond du Lac boast two of the most dynamic front lines in Wisconsin high school hockey. The Spartans also have Davis Drewiske award finalist Trent Olson on the blue line, while the Cardinals counter with Rex Whealon and Alex Graf.

Superior Spartans (17-8-1). The Spartans are making their 35th trip to the State Tournament, and for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons. Last year they were one and done, dropping a 5-1 decision to eventual champion Notre Dame Academy.

Superior's first line is a joy to watch. juniors Aaron Miller and Aaron Wakefield-Zubiate, along with sophomore Tyler Nystrom do most of the scoring. Miller put up 24 goals and 30 assists during the regular season. Wakefield-Zubiate chipped in 13 and 26, while Nystrom added 21 and 14. Defenseman Trent Olson added 3 goals and 9 assists while running the power play.

The Spartans have been hot and cold defensively, giving up goals in bunches when they are not on, but have been getting more consistent play as the season has progressed. During an impressive run at the Showdown in Titletown, Superior went 3-0, allowing just one goal in each game against Wausau West, Madison Edgewood, and Fond du Lac, their Thursday quarterfinal foe.

Fond du Lac Cardinals (22-3-2). The Cardinals had been regular visitors to the Tournament, but have missed the last three seasons, making this their lucky number 13th trip to the Coliseum.

Fondy's first line also is responsible for their scoring prowess.  Junior Michael Wilson has put up 29 goals and 34 assists, senior Ty Rebedew added 32 and 14, while Sophomore Jack Nejedlo contributed 21 and 41. Like their Spartan counterparts, they combine speed, deft puck-handling, and deadly shooting to create offense out of thin air.

Rex Whealon leads the defensemen in scoring with 4 goals and 17 assists.

Senior Charlie Blagoue handles the duties in front of the net. He posted a 2.07 goals against average and .923 save percentage during the regular season, and similar 2.00 gaa and .929 save percentage in the three playoff wins.

Bergler's Take:
Both teams can put up points. The Cardinals have been more consistent defensively during the season. But the Spartans have been coming on since the calendar turned to 2013, including a 3-1 win over the Cardinals back on January 27th.

For Superior, the State Tournament is expected and they know what to do in Madison. For the Cardinals, it is a return to the elite status they held for almost a generation.

I'm expecting fireworks, goalies beware.

Final: Superior 5, Fond du Lac 4

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