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WIAA State Tournament Flashback: Sam Kappell, leading scorer, 2023 D-1 Championship

By Matt Carey, Contributor, 02/27/24, 1:30PM CST

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Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Matt Carey and do not reflect the opinions of Wisconsin Prep Hockey or its partners.

Sam Kappell as a sophomore led Notre Dame Academy with 3 goals and 2 assists in the 2023 WIAA D-1 state championship. In the biggest game of the season, with Notre Dame and Verona full of superb high school players, Sam took center stage with his scoring outburst.

Sam followed up his dominant performance at WIAA state by excelling a few weeks later at USA Hockey Tier 1 Nationals with Team Wisconsin’s U15 team. Sam’s exceptional play created an opportunity to be first again. He was the first sophomore forward to be offered a roster spot on Wisconsin’s HP-18 team in the Minnesota HP NIT tournament.

Sam Kappell’s good fortunes continued into late spring, 2023. Sam was the overall number one selection in the 2023 USHL draft. He was the first WIAA player to be selected #1 overall in the USHL draft.

“Sammy size-wise is a bigger kid that can skate, not afraid to go in the corners and he competes hard. I got to know Sammy off ice when I was at St. Norbert (assistant coach) and most importantly he has high character, strong work ethic and is dedicated to getting better. Then for Wisconsin (assistant coach) I was scouting the Tier 1 Nationals (spring 2023) and Sammy was one of the best players in the national tournament! He was exactly what we were looking for. Kids that work hard off ice and at academics are typically kids that work hard on ice.” Andy Brandt, Head Coach, Madison Capitols USHL.

“Sam Kappell and Nick Madsen were the first sophomores from Wisconsin to play in the CCM NIT for Team Wisconsin. They played great. Sam has a complete game and is effective in all three zones. He has a big frame, and a skill set to complement his size. Sam brings pucks to the hard areas and creates offense. He has a bright future ahead of him.” Cal Roadhouse, Team Wisconsin HP-18 Coach

Let’s get to know Sam Kappell!

What do you remember the most about winning WIAA state last year? The biggest memory is after the championship celebrating in the locker room with teammates and the equipment manager.

Describe the team bond and culture on your WIAA championship team? We were a really close group. We are all good friends, and we still all stay in contact with each other. Coach Cory (McCracken) and Coach Sil (Mirao) were really impactful on the players. They did a lot for us and were really supportive.

How did it feel to score 3 goals & 2 assists in the championship game? It was cool after the fact, but during the game I didn’t think about it. I was focused on winning the championship and enjoying the last game with some of the best teammates I have ever had.

Your ND team traveled in early February to Michigan and beat Michigan’s D-1 and D-2 championship teams, what impact did that trip have? The hardest team we played all season was Detroit Catholic Central. They were a veteran team with a lot of seniors. That trip gave us more confidence and we believed nobody would beat us.

You and Nick Madsen were the first 10th grade players selected to represent Wisconsin in the NIT, how was that experience? I enjoyed the weekend a lot. I met a lot of new players I had never played with before. I thought the hockey was really good.

You were the first overall pick in the USHL draft, what is it like playing in the USHL? It’s a big adjustment for speed. It’s fast and you must be smart and on your toes. Also, playing with older guys and the lifestyle is a lot different.

What is your daily routine in USHL? In the morning, we go to school. Next is skills practice, then film, then team practice, and finally a team workout. In the late afternoon or evening I do schoolwork.

What NCAA teams are in contact with you? I haven’t focused on which college to play for yet. I will think about that over the course of the next year.

When did you start playing hockey? 3 years old.

Where did you play youth hockey? Appleton until 8 and then Jr. Gamblers.

Did anyone in your family play hockey? No, but my cousins started playing.

What is your favorite hockey memory? Going to the pee wee Quebec tournament.

What is your pregame ritual? Eat chicken, go on a light run, stickhandling.

What hockey skills do you have that separates you from the competition? I have a unique combination of power and finesse. I have powerful legs that give me speed and I am good with my stick.

Is there an NHL player you model your game after? Matthew Knies, Jack Eichel, and Tage Thompson.

Who is the most influential person in your life? My parents. They both have always supported me, and definitely my dad for being hard on me and tips to be a better athlete.

What do you want to do for your career? Something in the medical field. Maybe a dentist or orthodontist, or maybe business.

Do you play any other sports? Golf and I like to run a lot. I plan to start playing tennis more.

What do you enjoy doing in addition to sports? Fishing and hanging out with friends.

What is your favorite food? Orange Chicken from Panda Express.

What is your favorite music group and type of music? I like a mix between rap and country. Travis Scott and Zac Brown Band or Blake Shelton.

Where is your dream vacation? Bahamas or Fiji.

Chocolate cake, brownie, or apple pie? Brownie.

Pickup truck or sports car? Sports car. Bentley.

If you could meet anyone from history, who would you want to meet? Jesus and my great grandparents.

What message do you have for current WIAA players that want to play after high school? Have a goal in your mind and surround yourself with people that want to be successful. It’s okay to be hard on yourself, but also have fun.

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