The University School boys’ hockey team is going to the State Tournament. The Wildcats defeated the Brookfield East co-op 3-0 in the WIAA state tournament Sectional 8 Final held at Wilson Park Saturday to earn the chance to play for the state championship.
USM’s senior goaltender Bryan Botcher earned the shutout. The Wildcats outshot Brookfield 33-14. Junior Hayden Brown, his older brother senior Duncan Brown, and senior Vadim Sukhanov scored on three of those shots.
Duncan Brown, one of USM’s captains, commented on the victory, “It’s great. A lot of hard work and teamwork got us to Madison. Hopefully our grit will propel us past Wausau West.”
USM coach Tim Quinn said, “After the down to the wire win against Cedarburg, the sectional championship almost felt a little anti-climactic. There wasn't much drama because we knew our opponent well, had a solid game plan, and executed it almost perfectly, cruising to the 3-0 victory. Still, it was special night for the boys who have worked hard all season and really deserved that championship. We're feeling confident heading to Madison, but we know we will have to elevate our game even more if we want to keep moving on.”
During the first period each team seemed to be probing for ways to exploit the other, and the period ended in a 0-0 tie. The shot totals were nearly equal s well. Botcher turned aside 8 shots and his goaltending opponent, Brookfield senior JJ Murnane, stopped 7 shots.
Things changed quickly in the second period. At the two-minute mark, sophomore defenseman Tommy Ferrara passed the puck to freshman Nick Epperson on a breakout play. Epperson spotted Hayden Brown moving near the Brookfield blue line and sent a pass to Brown’s tape. Brown accelerated past a defender and closed in on Murnane. He fired a low shot below the goalie’s glove to give USM the lead.
The lead gave the Wildcats confidence and during the period they poured 14 more shots on the Brookfield net while allowing only 6 on Botcher. One of USM's shots went in. As the Wildcats cycled in the Brookfield end, Hayden Brown sent the puck to Epperson behind the net. Epperson stepped around it and sent a pass to Duncan Brown in the slot. Like he’d found the pot of gold, Duncan Brown immediately rainbowed a backhander off the pipe. The ‘twing’ was the sound of music to Wildcat ears, as the puck caromed into the net at 14:00.
The Wildcats continued to dominate the game in the third period. They added a third goal midway through the period. Epperson got the puck on the sideboards in the Brookfield zone and moved it to Sukhanov at the point. Sukhanov sharply blazed a bullet past Murnane at 8:46.
The win gave USM a 20-4-3 record. The Wildcats will face Wausau West in the opening quarterfinal round of the State Tournament at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Thursday, March 6th. Face off time is set for 6:00 p.m.