The University School of Milwaukee rode a powerful offense, and smothering defense, and solid goal-tending to their third State Championship on Saturday, with a 6-2 win over the Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha Rockets.
The game had the makings of a heavyweight bout in the first period as both teams came out banging. Elbows and sticks got up a bit and a few penalties were called, but no serious physical damage was done.
At 10:17 with the puck in the Wildcats’ zone, Neenah was making a line change when Jacob Como spotted Tyler Herzberg on the far side of the ice near the Rockets Blue line and nobody around him. Como’s quick pass sent Herzberg in on NHM goalie Jake Mork and Herzberg beat him high on the blocker side.
USM goalie Patrick Kelly was credited with 5 saves in the first period, while Mork stopped 8 of the 9 shots he saw.
At 3:13 in the second period Herzberg danced around a Rocket defender and carried the puck deep and behind the Neenah net. Herzberg tried for a wrap-around goal but didn’t get enough angle on the puck to put it in the net. Instead it slid across the crease until it hit Mork’s leg pad and bounced into the net.
Already on the power play and with another delayed penalty coming up, USM pulled their goalie and threw the puck at the net. Mork made the initial stop, but Blake Carey popped in the rebound to make it 3-0 at 14:35.
A minute later, the Wildcats repeated that action. Casey Roepke fired a shot on goal from the blue line, Mork made the save, and Carey popped in the rebound.
Four power play chances for USM helped contribute to a shot differential of 21 for the Wildcats and only 5 for the Rockets.
The Rockets were finally able to capitalize on their man advantage at 3:41 in the third period. Ethan Long entered the USM zone along the left boards, walked on defenseman and swooped in on Kelly, firing a shot over his shoulder to make it a 4-1 game.
With Dillon Fox serving a five minute major penalty for boarding, Robby Newton and Sterling Cooke padded the USM lead with power play goals from in close.
Eric Alberts added a late goal for the Rockets to make it 6-2. Frank Fee replaced Kelly in goal for USM after that goal.