One more to go for the University School boys hockey team. Back in November, the Wildcats set their goals high. The ultimate goal, a state championship, is just one game away after USM defeated the Verona Wildcats 5-0 in a semi-final game of the WIAA Boys State Hockey Tournament on Friday, March 1st at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.
The USM Wildcats begin their season with a game against Neenah/Menasha/Hortonville and they will end the season against the Rockets in the finals of the tournament. In Friday’s battle of the Wildcats, the USM squad broke a 0-0 first period tie with four goals in the second period to stun their opponents.
USM goaltender Patrick Kelly blanked the Verona Wildcats. According to the official scorebook, Kelly stopped all 25 of the shots the Verona players put on him, including a sensational third period glove save when he was prone on the ice that preserved his shutout.
At the opposite end of the ice, Kaden Grant stopped 19 of USM’s attempts, but five others made it past him, and that was what mattered.
The first of the shots that counted for USM came just 56 seconds into the second period while USM was killing a penalty. Tyler Herzberg jumped to collect a loose puck in center ice. He sped down the left side. Dipping his shoulder to spin past a defender, he cut in on Grant, and stuffed the puck under the goalie for the eventual game winning goal.
USM scored again midway through the period. Skating out of the USM zone, defenseman Ethan Ford forwarded a pass to Sterling Cooke on the left boards at the Verona blue line. As a defenseman closed on him, Cooke snuck a pass past the defender that ended up just out of the reach of the other Verona defenseman and just in front of Reid Woods who was dashing toward the net. The pass was perfect. Woods made it memorable by burying a shot in the Verona net’s twines at 8:30.
A few minutes further on, the USM Wildcats increased their lead to 3-0. Like he was mailing a personal invitation to shoot from one circle to the other, Herzberg passed the puck across the slot to Robby Newton in the right circle. Newton lined an off-angle shot over Grant’s glove at 12:50.
Newton scored again in the last minute of the period. In the Verona zone, Casey Roepke sent the puck from the blue line to Herzberg in the right corner. Seeing both Ethan Mann and Newton skating down the slot, Herzberg made a tape to tape pass to Mann. Knowing the goalie had moved to his side, Mann flipped the puck to Newton. Newton lasered the puck into the open side of the net at 16:23 to send the Verona Wildcats into the locker room trailing by four.
Despite taking 10 shots in the final period, Verona was unable to make a mark on the scoreboard. USM added one more to their side of the board while on a power play in the closing minutes of the game.
As he skated the puck out from behind the USM net, Ford got blown up by a check just as he got a pass off his stick to his defensive partner, Alex Thundercloud. The USM players moved down ice and got the puck into the Verona zone then worked to control it. Cooke gained it down deep. He saw Ford moving into the zone near the blue line and passed it back. Ford got payback for the heavy hit, by slapping a shot into the Verona net at 16:26.
The loss ended season for Verona. The Wildcats ended it with a record of 21-6-2.
USM is now 27-2. They play Neenah/Menasha/Hortonville in the State Tournament Championship game, which is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 2nd at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.