The University School boys’ hockey team defeated the Waukesha Wings 5-2 in a Sectional 4 quarter-final of the WIAA Division 1 boys ice hockey tournament on Friday, February 21st.
As would be expected when the second seeded team takes on the seventh seeded team in a sectional, USM outshot the Wings 45-29. Alex Miller made 40 saves in the nets for Waukesha, while Patrick Kelly, USM’s goaltender made 27 saves.
USM went ahead before many in the crowd had settled into their seats. The Wildcats swiftly moved the puck into the Wings’ zone. Tyler Herzberg stopped a Wings’ clear at the blue line and sent the puck in deep to Noah Eghbali near the post. Herzberg followed his pass. As he did, Eghbali passed the puck to Blake Carey in the slot. Carey moved it to Herzberg in the low right circle. Herzberg zinged a wrist shot past Miller just 30 seconds into the contest.
The Wildcats went further ahead midway through the first period while they were killing a penalty. Peter Ells intercepted a Wings’ clearing play on the right mid-boards and immediately passed the puck into the slot to Eghbali who was roaring down the slot like an Indy car on a straightaway. Eghbali fired the puck past Miller at 7:47.
The Wings edged closer with a goal less than a minute later. Anthony Vranak sent a breakout pass to Tyler Dale in center ice. As he skated across the USM blue line, Dale cut to the left and released a shot that fluttered over Kelly’s glove at 8:33.
Waukesha tied the game back up early in the second period. Skating toward the USM zone, Morgan McKnight sent a pass across the blue line to Dale. Dale pulled the puck off the right boards and moved in slowly, allowing his teammates to join the play. From the top of the right circle Dale took a low shot. Having moved to the front of the net, McKnight knocked the incoming puck under Kelly at 3:57.
The Wildcats did not seem too perturbed by the tie score; they broke it again just under two minutes later. From a collision at center ice, the puck was knocked deep into the Wings zone. Eghbali raced in to get it as it curled around the backboards. He centered it to Carey in the low slot. Carey took a shot; Miller kicked the puck out. Herzberg zoomed to it and backhanded the rebound in at 5:47.
USM scored another shorthanded goal at 13:28. In the USM zone, Carey got a rebound of a Wings’ shot and snapped the puck out of the zone toward the left boards. Herzberg flew after it like a hungry raptor after its prey. Herzberg skated past the lone Wings’ defender, swooped in on Miller, deked him, and deposited the puck in the net to give USM a 4-2 lead.
The Wings were assessed with 4 penalties in the third period, and the Wildcats took advantage. They outshot their visitors 18-7 in the period and scored their final goal on a power play. As the Wildcats moved the puck around the Wings’ end, Garrett Cox got the puck in the slot and passed it to Alex Thundercloud at the right point. Thundercloud moved it to Herzberg on the center of the blue line. Herzberg sizzled a low shot into the net at 7:01.
The loss ended the Wings’ season. They concluded 2019-2020 with a 9-12-3 record.
USM is now 18-6-1. The Wildcats continue to play in Sectional 4 of the WIAA Division 1 boys ice hockey tournament. The second-seeded Wildcats face off against the sectional’s third seed, Kettle Moraine/Mukwonago/Oconomowoc in a sectional semi-final game at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 25th at USM.