The University School boys’ hockey team defeated Waupun 7-1 in the WIAA state tournament Regional Finals held at USM Friday night.
The Warriors scored the game’s first goal, but the Wildcats answered with two goals late in the first period. The Wildcats then scored three goals in less than a minute in the middle of the second period and powered ahead. Ben Hrabak led USM with two goals in the game. Nick Epperson, Duncan Brown, Peter Barney, Hayden Brown, and Tommy Ferrara each scored one for the Wildcats against Austin Taylor, the Waupun goalie, who made 24 saves. Bryan Botcher made 21 saves for USM.
USM coach Tim Quinn said, “It was pretty exciting for the boys to get their first playoff win in three years. Despite the fact that we should have been very confident, you could tell we were a little nervous in the beginning, particularly in our own zone, and especially when we went down 1-0. Thankfully, we were able to get an even strength goal and then one on the power play before the end of the first, and after that we simply rolled. Waupun worked hard throughout the game, but we were just too deep and had too much firepower for them.”
Waupun opened the scoring just 4:32 into the first period. Forechecking fiercely, Jordan Foster knocked the puck out to Bryce Buchholz near the blue line. Buchholz moved it into to the circle to Cole Kuslits who cut into the slot unopposed and rifled a shot past Botcher.
The Wildcats tied the game at 13:20. In the USM zone, Barney knocked the puck to Jerzey Judge along the boards. Judge sent it ahead to Hrabak who was speeding out of the zone. Hrabak skated along the boards into the Waupun zone. From the top of the circle he blasted a slap shot off the far post and into the net.
The Wildcats scored what proved to be the game winner at 15:36 of the first period while on a power play. From the high slot Duncan Brown fired the puck on Taylor. The puck hit his glove and bounced to the side. Hayden Brown jumped to get it. He tapped it out front and, like he was punching buttons on a remote, Epperson quickly changed the puck’s channeling and sent it into the net.
The Wildcats scored three goals in 47 seconds to take control of the game. The first came at 7:10 on a power play when Ferrara sent the puck low in the Waupun zone to Hayden Brown. Hayden stepped toward the net then lined a pass to his brother Duncan Brown in the slot. Duncan Brown one-timed a shot past Taylor to make it 3-1.
It was 4-1 ten seconds later. Off the resulting center ice faceoff, Hrabak grabbed the puck and wheeled into the Waupun end with Barney joining him. Hrabak slid the puck across, and Barney whipped it past Taylor at 7:20.
It took the Wildcats just 37 seconds more to score their fifth goal. Duncan Brown gained control of the puck in the USM zone and quickly forwarded it to Epperson. As Epperson raced into the Waupun end, he spotted Hayden Brown moving in as a trailer and sent the puck back to him. Hayden Brown one-timed a shot past the startled Waupun goalie at 7:57.
USM added another second period goal to its total. Defenseman Chris Keliher passed the puck out of the USM zone to Jake Kandel who was joined on a two-on-two by Hrabak. Kandel dipsy-doodled around one defender making it a two-on-one. He then passed the puck to Hrabak who quickly blazed the puck past Taylor at 10:50 to put the clock on running time.
The Wildcats scored one more goal at the very start of the third period when Duncan Brown sent a pass from inside the Waupun zone to Ferrara at the point. Ferrara gassed a shot inside the near post at 0:17 of the period.
USM is now 17-4-3. The Wildcats move on to play Cedarburg in the Sectional 8 Semi-final of the WIAA state tournament on Tuesday, February 25th at 7:30 p.m. at USM.