Freshman Casey Roepke scored a goal in the final 17 seconds to give the University School boys’ hockey team a 3-2 victory over Sun Prairie in a non-conference game played Thursday, December 29th at USM.
Roepke scored just over a minute after Sun Prairie had tied the game at 2-2 near the end of a close contest in which the winner was in doubt the whole way through. Like the sore, the shot totals were nearly equal. Sam Dunn, Sun Prairie’s junior goalie, made 23 saves, and sophomore Frank Fee, the Wildcats’ goalie, made 20.
Relieved after his team pulled out the win, USM’s head coach, Jason Woods, said, “I thought our guys did a great job responding to the adversity of the late goal by Sun Prairie. We played with some passion throughout the game that we haven't had in the past. Sun Prairie’s goalie is certainly one of the best in the state, and he showed that tonight. I give credit to our guys to find a way.”
The scoring went back and forth throughout the night. USM drew first blood in the waning moments of the first period. Roepke prevented a Sun Prairie clear at the blue line and shot the puck toward the Cardinals’ net. Sophomore Christian Blomquist stopped the incoming shot near the crease and knocked it to the edge of the right circle to his classmate Carson Mogush. Mogush one-timed a shot past Dunn for the goal at 13:06.
The Cardinals tied the score at 8:23 of the second period while on a 5-on-3 power play. In the USM end, senior Conor Mikula collected the puck along the left sideboards, skated around the circle and into the slot. He fired it at Fee. The rebound bounced to the left to freshman Kyle Hagerman who took another shot. The puck popped into the crease. Junior Josh McCrary then smashed it past Fee.
USM regained the lead while killing a penalty early in the third period. An errant Sun Prairie shot popped out of the USM zone. Senior Nick Epperson sprinted between the Cardinal defensemen, snagged the loose puck, skated into the Sun Prairie zone and deked Dunn for the goal at 2:46.
The tension in the home fans who packed the rink mounted with each remaining minute. The USM players gripped their lead the way a cat wraps its claws around a captured mouse that desperately struggles to get loose.
Eventually, the Cardinals were able to re-tie the game. With less than two minutes left, junior Noah Nehmer moved the puck to Hagerman in center ice. Hagerman skated into the USM zone on the right side, cut across the middle and from the edge of the far circle, he rifled a shot over Fee’s glove at 15:07.
That set up the excitement of Roepke’s game winner. As the clock wound down, the Wildcats got the puck into the Cardinals’ zone. Freshman Blake Carey poke checked the puck away from a Sun Prairie defender in the slot. It bounced to sophomore Andrew Malek, who fired a shot at Dunn. The puck careened out to Carey in the left circle. He shot. The shot went wide behind the net and bounced to Roepke on the right side. He swung into the right circle. Using a referee as a screen, he fired. The puck jetted into the nearside upper corner at 16:43. The Wildcats had the win.
Epperson, one of USM’s captains, said, “"That was a fun game to play in. Both teams put up a great fight. We were a little timid at first with the new lines, but after getting used to each other, we got the puck moving, and it felt natural. I'm very optimistic about the lineup going forward."
USM is 6-3 and 0-2 in the Classic Eight Conference. The Wildcats play Stevens Point Area High School in a non-conference game at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 6th at the K.B. Willett Ice Arena in Stevens Point.