Nick Epperson’s natural hat trick led the University School boys’ hockey team to a 6-1 victory over Monona Grove in a non-conference game on Saturday, February 4th at USM.
Epperson scored the first three goals for the Wildcats. The rink seemed to be tilted toward the Monona Grove end as Epperson and his teammates fired 50 shots at the Eagles’ goalie, Andryi Nahirniak. Kylar Fenton, Christian Blomquist, and Brandon McGill scored on three other shots. Wyatt Knipfer scored Monona Grove’s lone goal.
Epperson scored the game’s first goal while USM was on the power play. The Wildcats were moving the puck around the Monona Grove zone when it went to Epperson on the right boards. He passed it to Fenton in the center of the blue line. Fenton fired a low shot at Nahirniak. The puck skipped off his pads, hit the stick of USM’s Brandon McGill, and skipped to the low boards on the left side. Logan Geisness corralled it and spotted Epperson signaling for it in the right circle. Geisness lined a pass across the low slot to Epperson, who one-timed a shot into the net at 12:28.
Epperson scored another power play goal in the last seconds of the first period. Once again the Wildcats set up in the Monona Grove zone. An errant USM pass bounced off a Monona Grove player in the slot and flickered to the left mid-boards. Epperson raced to get it. He turned and passed it to Geisness at the near point. Geisness quickly moved it to Fenton at the center of the blue line. Fenton spotted Epperson hustling through the left circle, and put a pass on Epperson’s stick. Epperson one-timed a shot past Nahirniak at 16:54.
Epperson completed his hat trick at 11:02 of the second period. Geisness stopped the puck just outside the Monona Grove blue line and tipped it to Andrew Malek. Malek stepped into the zone and slipped the puck to Blake Carey, who was heading toward the net. From deep in the left circle, Carey crossed a pass to Epperson stationed all alone in the right circle. Epperson blasted a rising shot into the net to give USM a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats made it 4-0 a little less than three minutes later. Geisness skated into the Eagles’ end and fired a shot. The rebound went to the left corner and Geisness flew after it. He pushed the puck up the boards. A defenseman stopped it, but Carson Mogush entered a battle for it. Christian Blomquist pulled the puck from the scrum, turned, and lined a pass to Fenton who was racing into the right circle. Fenton swiftly fired a shot into the Eagles’ net at 13:43.
USM scored again at 8:33 of the third period. Ethan Ford stopped an Eagles clearing attempt at the right point. He pushed the puck to Carey at the top of the near circle. The puck popped away and went to Blomquist. He skated deep into the right corner, curled out front, and stuffed the puck under Nahirniak for the goal.
The game’s final two goals were scored in the game’s final two minutes. The first of these was scored by the Eagles. Taking a faceoff at the right dot outside the USM blue line, Garret Vinge drew it to Tanner Smith. The puck popped to a Wildcat defenseman who tried to pass it forward. Knipfer intercepted the pass, skated into the USM zone, and whizzed a shot past the glove of Patrick Kelly, USM’s goalie, at 15:29.
The Wildcats scored their final goal at 16:46, when Geisness fired the puck from the left point. Tyler Herzberg tipped it over to McGill who buried a shot in an opening behind Nahirniak.
“Another strong showing today,” noted Jason Woods, USM’s head coach. “The changes we made after the Homestead game seem to have paid off. I really like where we are heading into the playoffs. Confidence is key, and I think we are gaining that. We have just two more practice games until the real thing. We will be ready.”
Monona Grove is now 6-15. USM is 16-6 and 4-2 in the Classic Eight Conference. The Wildcats play Kenosha in a conference clash on Wednesday, February 8th at USM.