The University School boys’ hockey team defeated Cedarburg 2-1 in the Sectional 8 Semi-final of the WIAA state tournament on Tuesday night at USM.
Cedarburg out shot USM 30-23, but USM’s goaltender Bryan Botcher stopped 29 shots to lead the Wildcats to the win. USM took the lead late in the second period on a goal by Ben Hrabak. Cedarburg’s Nick Martin tied it up just 6 seconds later and the teams kept battling. USM eventually won the game on a power play goal by Peter Barney midway through the third period. Cedarburg worked hard, but Botcher kept them at bay. He stopped four point-blank shots during a Cedarburg power play in the third period and gave his teammates the playoff victory.
USM coach Tim Quinn said, “Last night's game was simply an honor to be a part of. Two strong teams fought tooth and nail right down to the wire, and thankfully we had just enough grit to pull out the win. We got goals when we needed them and played tough defense in front of a goaltender who may have had the game of his life. I'm proud of the win. The boys worked extremely hard. Hopefully we can do it again on Saturday, but the games are just going to get tougher from here on out.”
The Bulldogs outshot the Wildcats 10-7 in the opening period, but neither team could get one to fly past Botcher and his goalkeeping opponent, Mike McCoy of Cedarburg.
USM finally scored the game’s first goal at 13:23 when both teams were playing a man down. From the Cedarburg blue line, USM’s Vadim Sukhanov sent the puck below the goal line. Hrabak gathered it in, skated behind the Bulldog’s net, and continued out the other side. In the low left circle, Hrabak spun and, in an attempt to get the puck out front, he launched a low shot toward the net. The puck hit McCoy’s skate and bounced between his legs for the goal.
The Bulldogs took back the momentum by scoring on the following center ice face-off. Martin won the draw forward and, unmarked, took off. The puck went to Tyler Fisher who passed it into space ahead of Martin. Martin skated in on a breakaway and pushed a shot under Botcher at 13:28.
They teams went back and forth, playing great playoff hockey and seeing who could get an advantage. The Wildcats made the most of a third period power play to gain that advantage. They got the puck into the Bulldogs’ end and began to work it around. Duncan Brown got the puck and sent it toward the point. It went to Chris Keliher. Keliher fired a high shot toward the net. Barney touched it as it went through the slot, redirecting it into the net at 7:48.
Barney said, “It was awesome, very memorable. It was a lucky shot and a lucky tip, but it worked when we really need it. It was a good win. Now we have Brookfield. They’re the eighth seed so I’m a bit surprised, but they’re on a roll. We’re going to have to put that to a stop. I know we can.”
USM is now 19-4-3. The Wildcats plays the Brookfield East co-op in the Sectional 8 Semi-final of the WIAA state tournament on Saturday, March 1st at 4:00 p.m. at the Wilson Ice Arena at Milwaukee’s Wilson Park.