The University School boys’ hockey team defeated Kenosha 4-2 in a Classic Eight Conference game on Wednesday, February 8th at USM.
It was Senior Night at USM, and the Wildcats and their fans celebrated the contributions of Nick Epperson, Logan Geisness, Riley Hill, Charlie Mahoney, Tommy Mahoney, Brandon McGill, and Leo Simanonok.
Epperson was the lone senior to score in Wednesday’s game. The efforts of his sophomore teammates contributed directly to the victory. Sophomore Christian Blomquist scored twice and his classmate Andrew Malek scored once for the Wildcats, while sophomore goaltender Frank Fee made 21 saves to help the Wildcats win.
“Overall, I’m happy to win,” said Jason Woods, USM’s head coach. “As I told the guys, now isn't the time to question wins, now is the time to just keep winning. It wasn't our cleanest game, we didn't convert on all of our chances and even missed the net on some more big time chances, but we still found a way to get it done. Lots of credit to Kenosha too, they play incredibly hard and with great discipline. If they follow that formula, they could really make some noise in their sectional.”
Malek scored the Wildcats’ first goal at the conclusion of a three-on-two rush. He started the play by sending a long diagonal, breakout pass to Epperson in center ice. Epperson skated into the Thunder’s zone and put on the brakes. From the right boards, he zinged a pass to freshman Blake Carey near the crease. Carey tipped the puck over to Malek who snapped it into the side of the net left vacant when Kenosha’s goalie, Joseph Laforge, moved to stop Carey. Time of the goal: 9:52.
The Wildcats scored their second goal early in the second period. In the last second of a Kenosha power play, Malek knocked the puck off a defenseman’s stick and skated into center ice. Epperson had just jumped onto the ice as the penalty ended. Malek zipped a pass to him at the edge of the Thunder’s blue line. Epperson skated in on a breakaway. He deked Laforge then lofted a backhander over the diving goalie at 1:54.
Kenosha closed the gap midway through the period. Nicholas Eisen intercepted a D-to-D pass at the USM blue line and jumped into a breakaway. He moved in and fired a wrist shot past Fee from the low slot for the goal at 10:49.
The Wildcats tallied what would prove to be the game winner early in the third period. Junior Will Kennedy got the puck in the left corner of the Kenosha zone and passed it to the left point to Geisness. Geisness quickly passed it to the center of the blue line to junior defenseman Kylar Fenton. Fenton took a shot. The puck rebounded to Blomquist in the low slot, and he whipped it into the net at 3:32.
The Thunder made it a one-goal game once again a few minutes later. Taking a faceoff in the right circle of the Wildcats’ zone, Christian Stoller drew the puck back to the point to Chandler Giampetro, who passed it across the line to his defense partner, Nathan Stine. From the blue line, Stine fired a shot. The puck hit a body in front of Fee and bounced out to Stoller in the slot. Stoller backhanded a shot on net. Fee stopped it, but the rebound caromed to Kyle Kuhfuss near the post and Kuhfuss clubbed it in at 6:46.
The play was intense for the remainder of the game as the Thunder tried to tie it and the Wildcats worked to maintain their slim lead. With about a minute left, the Thunder pulled Laforge for an extra skater. From a faceoff in the USM zone, Epperson got the puck and head-manned it to Blomquist. As he crossed the center-ice red line, Blomquist fired a shot into the empty Kenosha net to seal the victory for the USM.
Kenosha is now 10-12-1 overall and finished the Classic Eight Conference season with a 3-3-1 conference record. USM is 17-6 and concluded conference play with a 5-2 mark. The Wildcats have one regular season game remaining before they start the state tournament playoffs. They take on Onalaska in a non-conference game at USM at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, February 10th.