After ending 2019 at the Herb Brooks Memorial Classic Tournament in Minnesota, the University School boys’ hockey team returned to Wisconsin and headed into a tough set of games against top state teams in the new year.
First the Wildcats beat undefeated St. Mary’s Springs 4-3 on January 3rd.
In their latest test against the Madison Edgewood Crusaders, who entered the game with a 9-3 record, the Wildcats displayed skillful team work and confidence and defeated Edgewood 5-1 in a non-conference game on Tuesday, January 7th at USM.
“Tonight was a really good night,” said Jason Woods, USM’s head coach. “I thought it was as complete of a game as we have played all season. I think you are starting to see tremendous growth and development from some of our key guys, and our older, experienced players are taking the reins and creating a great team atmosphere. It’s fun to go to the rink knowing you’re playing really tough opponents every night. That’s how we believe we get better, playing great competition. The players are accepting that we have played a great schedule and are rising to the occasion.”
The Wildcats were clearly ready; they seemed to dominate the game, outshooting their visitors 33-13.
It did not take long for USM to take the lead. The Wildcats dumped the puck deep into the Crusaders’ end. Junior Reid Woods went after it. A defenseman swept it away around the right boards. Sophomore Ethan Thombs intercepted the clear and tapped the puck back to the point to junior Charlie Keough. Keough laced a low shot toward the net. Woods was still down in the slot. He caught the puck, spun like top, and zoomed a shot past junior Zach Walker, Edgewood’s starting goalie, just 1:31 into the game.
It wasn’t long before the score became 2-0, USM. On a breakout play from the Wildcats’ zone, senior TJ Fenton head-manned the puck to junior Noah Eghbali who raced along the left boards into the Edgewood end. As he entered the circle, Eghbali wired a pass to senior Tyler Herzberg as Herzberg dashed toward the far post. Herzberg tipped the puck past Walker at 6:58.
The Wildcats then scored three goals in the second period. The first of these came just 32 seconds into the period. Herzberg dug the puck away from a scrum along the left boards in center ice. As he crossed the Crusaders’ blue line, he was tripped. The puck trickled away, but Eghbali grabbed it, slipped between the two defensemen, then whipped a wrist shot into the Edgewood net.
USM made it 4-0 at 13:11. Senior Alex Thundercloud swept up a loose puck along the left boards in the USM end and zipped a pass past the defenseman at the point to Eghbali who was charging into center ice like a bull after a Matador’s red cape. Eghbali was off on a breakaway. As he skated down the slot, he fired a shot into the net.
The Wildcats scored another less than a minute later. Forechecking behind the Edgewood net, Woods got the puck and zipped a pass to the high slot to junior Kyler Ringgold who there was alone. Ringgold swiftly fired the puck past Walker at 13:50.
That was enough for Walker, who stopped 13 of the 18 shots the Wildcats took on him in the 30:50 he was in the net. His replacement, freshman Daniel Hoefer, made 15 saves and surrendered 0 goals in the final 20:10.
Edgewood scored the lone goal in the third period while on a power play. As the Crusaders swarmed around USM’s goaltender, senior Patrick Kelly, sophomore Cody Menzel batted the puck in at 7:45. Sophomore Aidan Lenz and junior Nathan Walker were given assists on the goal.
Kelly made 14 saves in the game. After Kelly played for 46:20, freshman Michael Polston replaced him and did not have to make a save in the remaining 4:40 of the game.
After the game, captain TJ Fenton spoke for the Wildcats, saying, “It was a great team effort all around tonight. We found a way to play three solid periods and battled all the way to the end. It was awesome to see everyone on the bench get an opportunity and contribute big minutes. We stuck to our game plan and ended up with a big win; a fun game to be a part of.”
The loss dropped Edgewood’s overall record to 9-4. The Crusaders are atop the Badger South Conference with a 4-0 record. They play Oregon in a conference game at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 9th at the Oregon Community Sports Arena.
USM is now 8-2-1 and 1-0 in the Classic Eight Conference. The Wildcats play Sun Prairie in a non-conference game at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 10th at the Sun Prairie Ice Arena.