Eileen Carey’s goal 40 seconds into overtime was a true Valentine’s Day gift to her team. Carey’s score gave the University School co-op a 4-3 victory over the Onalaska Hilltoppers in a non-conference girls’ hockey game on Friday, February 14th at the Omni Center in Onalaska.
Carey took a pass from Jordan Bonk as she, Bonk, and Emily Mueller entered the Onalaska zone on a three-on-two break. Carey described her game-winning goal. “When Jordan, Emily, and I skated down open ice, I wasn’t really expecting the pass, more likely a shot on goal or possibly a rebound. When the puck hit my stick, it felt like it was on my stick forever. I finally got it off my stick and didn’t even see where it went in. But as long as it hit the net, I’m happy with it. I’ve never experienced a better feeling. The girls worked hard tonight, and I definitely feel like the win was well deserved.”
Bonk, who is a captain of the Wildcats, added, “The win today felt great. I feel like we really deserved this tonight, and it was a great way to start off this weekend. My assist on the overtime goal all happened because I had confidence that Eileen could put the puck in the net. Overall, it was a great game to come off of into our next game and then sectionals.”
As both players implied, the Wildcats took the action to their hosts in the annual end of the season contest between these two teams. They outshot the Hilltoppers 26-18. Sami Stommel, USM’s goaltender, made 15 saves in the game. Izzy Lassa, Onalaska’s goalie, made 22 saves.
The Wildcats began aggressively, taking 12 shots in the game’s first period and scoring on one of them. Zoe Uihlein, who was playing forward instead of her usual position defense, scored the night’s first goal. From the slot, she backhanded a rebound of a shot by Zoe Neudorfer past Lassa at 13:41.
Onalaska tied the score on a power play with just 7 seconds left in the opening period. Tessa Deal skated the puck into the Wildcats’ left corner where she was met by a defender. Mac Seiler joined her and pulled the puck free from the scrum. Seiler centered it. Jaidyn Groshek swiped at it. The puck caromed off her stick, fluttered into the air, and fell behind Stommel to make it 1-1 at the end of the period.
The Wildcats scored the only two goals in the second period. Forechecking in the Hilltoppers’ right corner, Rachel Gauthier stopped a defenseman. Molly Guenther got the loose puck and zipped a pass toward the crease. Neudorfer was standing at the near post, and she swatted the puck between Issa’s pad and the pipe at 7:58.
Uihlein scored her second goal of the game just over a minute later. Mallory DeLuca halted an Onalaska clearing attempt along the left boards at the Onalaska blue line. Uihlein grabbed the puck and whipped it down the boards to the corner. Neudorfer collected it and headed behind the net. Before she got there, she backhanded the puck out front to Uihlein who snapped it into the net, giving the Wildcats a 3-1 lead at 9:01.
The Hilltoppers were down but not out. They tied the score with two goals in the third period. Jaden Hammes scored both of them. She scored the first of them at 3:56 of the period. Skating out of the Onalaska end, Deal fired a cross ice pass toward the Wildcats’ blue line. The puck hit a defenseman’s stick and skittered to the left boards. Hammes scooped it up, skated to the edge of the circle, and blazed a shot past Stommel.
Hammes tied the score on a similar play late in the period. She snared a loose puck along the left boards in center ice and took off. She sped past a tripping defenseman and went in on a breakaway. From the left circle she gunned a shot into the net at 14:01.
That goal set up an overtime period. It wasn’t a long one. Carey made sure of that with 7:20 left in the added eight minutes.
After the game, Uihlein, who is also a captain of the Wildcats, said, “Today’s game was a great way to start off the weekend. We really worked hard as a team to get that win. As a defenseman moving up to forward for a game, I wasn’t expecting at all to get those two goals, but it was all thanks to my teammates for their great passes to me in the slot.”
Onalaska’s record is 12-10. The Hilltoppers play the penultimate game of their season when they host Hudson at the Omni Center at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 15th.
As a result of the win, USM is now 6-13-4. The Wildcats finish their regular season play in the second game of their swing through southwestern Wisconsin. They face off with Black River Falls in a non-conference game at noon on Saturday, February 15th at the Mose Lamb Hockey Rink in Tomah.