Verona faced Notre Dame Academy on Saturday Night in Verona. Both teams are powerhouses in the state and have competed against each other in the state tournament over the past couple of years. Verona entered the night with a record of 11-6 after a victory over Middleton in overtime. Notre Dame Academy came into with an 11-7-1 record for the season. Notre Dame won their most recent game, defeating Brookfield 5-4.
To start the first period, Notre Dame had the first significant chance. A well-placed pass from Andrew Ostermann found Joseph Coghlin's stick at the back door, but the shot was denied by the post. Notre Dame had another opportunity a few minutes later when a Verona defenseman turned over the puck, leading to a slick tic-tac-toe play. Unfortunately, the backdoor redirection went just wide.
Verona responded a couple of minutes later with a series of shots and bouncing rebounds, causing Notre Dame's goaltender, Lleyton Jaschke, to scramble in his crease.
Both goalies ended the period with 8 saves each.
Both teams played somewhat passively when they first came out, and around 8 minutes into the second period, patience at the blue line allowed Nathan Antti to perfectly place a shot from the point. The shot just hit the inside of the net, catching Verona's Blake Craven off guard as he was screened. Notre Dame led 1-0. Despite the goal, Notre Dame continued to apply pressure, keeping Verona on their end but was unable to score. A turnover forced by Drew Heil led to a breakaway for Notre Dame. Craven had to sprawl out to cover the bottom of the net, making a great save.
Notre Dame took a penalty, resulting in a power-play goal for Verona. A shot from the point by Verona was blocked on the way toward the net but landed right on the stick of a Verona player. Lleyton Jaschke had to sprawl out to make the save on the spin-o-rama shot. Verona would have liked to keep the play going, but the net was unintentionally kicked off as Jaschke slid to make the save.
Notre Dame faced a challenge to end the period as they took two different penalties on the same play. It didn't take long for Verona to tie the game. Verona's David Dina held the puck at the blue line, waiting for Notre Dame's penalty killers to tighten up in the slot. This gave Verona's Tre Grignon time to set himself up wide open across the ice for a shot that beat Jaschke over his glove, tying the game.
The period ended in a tie, with Notre Dame having 11 shots to Verona's 8.
The first few minutes of the third period were slow, as both teams were cautious not to make a mistake. Bryce Dahl managed to barely keep the puck in and took a nice shot from the point. The shot got batted down after Notre Dame's Ryker Thomas attempted to tip the puck into the net. Thomas then positioned himself well for a shot, but Verona's Craven made another great save, falling back on his side to keep the game tied.
Notre Dame continued to apply pressure, forcing Craven to make some big saves to keep the game level. Craven's ability to track pucks and stay in position has been the reason why Verona is still in the game, despite Notre Dame having numerous scoring chances.
Verona's Captain, Tre Grignon, created a power play opportunity after stealing the puck off the face-off and rushing into Notre Dame's zone. He was tripped up, giving Verona a power play. Unfortunately for Verona, they weren't able to set up in the zone and failed to score to tie the game. Craven had to withstand a large number of high-danger opportunities from Notre Dame as they pushed for the winner.
Verona had a chance to slot a potential game-winner with just 1 minute left in the game, but the shot was rifled over the net. Notre Dame then went down to the other end and gained possession in the Verona zone. Nathan Antti gained control of the puck at the blue line, skated in, and scored. He used a Verona defender as a screen and with a swift hard shot, beat Craven just underneath the blocker side crossbar with just 37 seconds left in the game.
Verona struggled to execute breakout passes and maintain possession of the puck in Notre Dame's zone. The combination of great puck-moving defensemen and quick passes to what felt like an always-open man made it no surprise that Notre Dame won this game. Notre Dame also excelled at using screens and getting bodies to the front of the net.
Two players really stood out. Blake Craven for Verona stood on his head, especially in that third period, to keep his team in the game. He ended the night with a .941 save percentage and 32 saves. Notre Dame's Nathan Antti was clinical with his important interceptions and ability to find openings with bodies in front of the net. He finished the night with both of Notre Dame's goals.
Verona's next game is against the Janesville Bluebirds in Janesville on Tuesday night. Notre Dame's next game is in Michigan as they take on Brighton High School on Friday.