In a brand-new rink on a frigid December evening, an unheralded player from USM shone brighter than the almost full moon.
Junior Kyler Ringgold entered the contest between his Wildcats and the Rockets from the Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha co-op with exactly two assists in his brief high school career.
He left the arena after scoring his first two goals, leading the guests to a 3-2 victory in the WiPH Game of the Week played Tuesday evening in the sparkling gem of a facility that is the Community First Champion Center in Grand Chute.
The first period had no scoring with USM outshooting the hosts by a margin of 8-5.
N/H/M got on the board first just over three minutes into the middle period. Drew Sutton found himself with the puck in the mid-slot and sniped a shot past the blocker of USM goalie Patrick Kelly for the 1-0 lead. Ethan Long earned a helper on the play, and would earn more than that later in the contest.
A couple minutes later, a Wildcat penalty put the Rockets on the power play, but it would be the team with the man-disadvantage that would score a goal.
Ringgold scored his first varsity goal after he grabbed the puck in the slot and fired it past N/H/M goalie Jake Mork to tie the game at one apiece at 5:27 with the SHG.
USM would take the lead with just under six minutes left in the stanza.
Tyler Herzberg set sail down the left side and cut toward the slot. His shot was stopped by Mork, but Ethan Thombs found the rebound and the back of the net to make it 2-1, USM. Herzberg and Reid Woods notched helpers on the play.
The horn sounded after 34 minutes with the visitors holding a slim one-goal lead. The Wildcats held a 12-4 shot advantage in the period.
USM took a 3-1 lead early in the period on Ringgold's second score. Blake Carey came around the back of the net and took a quick shot that Mork stopped, but Ringgold was Johnny-on-the-spot and slid the puck under the goalie's white, black, and red CCM pads. Carey got an assist for his part in the score.
With just over 11 minutes left in regulation, a minor skirmish took place along the far boards at center ice. After the participants were wrangled and names were taken, matching minors were called on the teams, and Long earned his badge of honor in the form of a bandaid on his chin.
The game continued and with just over six minutes left, a USM player went to the bad boy's box, but the home team was unable to capitalize.
As the game wound down to 2:25, N/H/M coach Jeff Lindemann took a time-out to set his team's strategy.
Mork came off for an extra attacker with an even two minutes left, and the Rockets were rewarded with a goal by Thomas Burns (assist by Long) with 1:34 left to cut the deficit to 3-2. The goal was also the first for the freshman defenseman.
The Rockets were unable to sustain possession, and Mork stayed in the crease, champing at the bit to come off. But the buzzer sounded on the 3-2 final.
Shots in the period were 3-3, as the teams played a stingy, defensive game in the last 17 minutes.
Kelly got the win, stopping 10 pucks for USM, who improved to 4-1. Mork was twice as busy, making 20 saves on his end. The Rockets dropped to 1-1 on the early season.