Alex Jones and company kept the high-powered Superior offense off the board as the Verona Wildcats beat the Spartans 3-0 in the first quarter-final game of the State Tournament.
The Spartans were able to keep pressure on and maintain control of the puck in the Wildcats end for long stretches at a time. But they got very few good scoring chances, being forced to shoot from the outside.
Around ten minutes into the period, Superior’s Grant Hanson was penalized for cross-checking in front of his own net, putting Verona on the power play. The Wildcats kept control of the puck in the Spartans end, moving it around the outside. Phillipe Fromberger got a pass at the blue line and put a wrist shot through a maze of bodies the goalie Paxton Paine did not see until it was going between his feet.
Shots were even in the first period, with Wildcat goalie Alex Jones stopping all 7 shots, while Paine stopped 6.
The shots were also even in the second period, at 6 each. This time Jones stopped two more than Paine. Just 53 seconds into the frame, Charlie Parker took a pass from Fromberger and blew past a Superior defenseman, coming in on Paine alone. He cut across the front of the net and slipped the puck past Paine.
At 10:59 in the second, Verona came into the Superior zone with a 2 on 1. The Spartan defense over-committed to man without the puck, letting Brogan Baker walk in alone on net. He made a move in front to his backhand, and flipped the puck into the net to put the wildcats up 3-0.
With just 6 seconds left in the period, Charlie Parker was flagged for checking from behind in open ice in front of the Superior bench, picking up a two minute minor and ten minute misconduct penalty. With Parker out for most of the third period, Verona used the second intermission to rearrange their lines.
“Fortunately we had time to make some line changes during the break. We also changed our forecheck a little bit,” said Verona head coach Joel Marshall. “We knew that being down three goals, Superior would really come out and put pressure on us. We didn’t want to just sit back offensively, but we also didn’t really need to score again. We really just wanted to limit their chances in our end.”
Superior did keep the puck in the Wildcats end most of the third period, outshooting Verona 10-3. But most of the shots were from the outside as the Wildcats counted down the minutes.
The win for Verona sets up the possibility of a repeat of last year’s semi-final game with Notre Dame Academy, in which the Wildcats upset the top ranked Tritons.