After defeating Kenosha 18-0 in a Classic Eight Conference contest the night before, the University School boys’ hockey team was flying high entering the conference contest against the Kettle Moraine/Mukwonago/Oconomowoc Lasers on Saturday, January 18th at the Nagawaukee Ice Arena in Delafield. Led by their captain Blake Carey who scored two goals, the Wildcats went on to defeat KMMO 5-3.
“It was a big conference win for the guys today,” said Jason Woods, USM’s head coach. “Not our cleanest effort of the season, but we found a way. I was concerned coming off the Kenosha game that we may be off a bit, and I thought we were. I also thought KMMO played hard every shift, so you have to credit them for making things difficult for us. Our best line was again the Peter Ells, Ben Moalusi, Alvin Pokel Line. They don’t put up a lot of points, but they work the right way. They grind the opponent down and let our other two lines battle tired guys. They were impressive.”
As Woods mentioned, the Wildcats and Lasers battled back and forth, as the shot totals attest. The Wildcats fired 19 shots at the KMMO tandem of Gunnar Johannsen and his late game replacement, Tyler Arnold. Johannsen made 12 saves and gave up all 5 USM goals. Arnold made 1 save in the game’s last 6:58. Patrick Kelly made 16 saves in net for the Wildcats.
There was no scoring in the first period as the two teams gauged each other.
Carey gave the Wildcats the lift they needed by scoring the game’s first goal just 32 seconds into the second period. His line mate and fellow co-captain Tyler Herzberg collected the puck in center ice and flew off. He chipped the puck into the Lasers’ left corner and sped after it. Herzberg passed it out to Carey who was skating into the low slot. Carey jabbed the puck under Johannsen to get the Wildcats’ goal scoring going.
It was just over a minute later that USM made it 2-0. In the Lasers’ end, Noah Eghbali picked pocketed the puck from a defenseman in the slot, stepped past him and fired a wrist shot past the Lasers’ unsuspecting goalie at 1:54.
USM went ahead by three goals at 9:08 of the second period when the Wildcats were on the power play. From a faceoff in the left corner of the Lasers’ zone the puck slid back to Alex Thundercloud at the near point. Thundercloud walked to the center of the blue line then fired a shot. The rebound came out to Carey in the right circle and he quickly gunned it past Johannsen.
The Lasers used their own power play to their first goal several minutes later. The teams were skating four versus three when Brady Driscoll skated the puck through center ice and into the right corner of the USM zone. He was hit by a defenseman, so he turned and passed the puck to Matthew Delany at the near point. DeLany passed it to the center of the line to Matthew Metsa. Metsa fired a shot past Kelly to make the score 3-1.
The Lasers closed the scoring gap further early in the third period. Tyler Hart skated into the USM zone and fired a shot. The puck hit a skate and bounced into the right circle. Zach Ramsos snared it, spun, and sent a pass across the slot to Michael Saunders in the left circle. Saunders quickly snapped a shot into the gaping hole on that side of the net at 1:29.
Pokel scored what would prove to be the winning goal at 4:44. Reid Woods won a battle for the puck in the KMMO right corner. He popped the puck toward the net. Ethan Thombs got it, swung behind the net then around to the front. He passed the puck out front to Pokel who zipped it in.
Herzberg scored a short-handed goal at 10:02 to give USM a 5-2 lead.
Later in the same power play, Kyle Santos scored a goal for the Lasers off a pass from his brother Hunter Santos to make it 5-3.
The Lasers tried, but they couldn’t get any more off the spirited Wildcats, who returned to USM with a victory.
After the game, the Wildcats third co-captain, TJ Fenton, commented on the win, “We knew going into the game that we had to get a win to stay in the running for a conference championship, and we did just that. We had solid special teams and found a way to battle through until the end.”
KMMO is now 8-6 and 1-2 in the Classic Eight Conference. The Lasers play Marquette in a Classic Eight Conference clash at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 23rd at the Eble Park Ice Arena in Brookfield.
USM is 11-2-1 and 3-0 in the Classic Eight Conference. The Wildcats play Waukesha in a Classic Eight Conference game at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21st at USM.