Strong defense and an opportunistic offense helped third-seeded Appleton United upset top seed Bay Port Pirates 3-1 on Friday night to earn a spot in the State Tournament.
Each team had good chances in the scoreless first period, but blocked shots and good goaltending kept the puck out of the nets. Dylan Phinney stopped all 11 shots he faced in the first, while Sean Angle recorded an equal number of saves for Bay Port.
United struck first, just 29 seconds into the second period. After forcing a turnover behind the Pirates net, Matt Gruber came up with the puck and fed Erik Horman in front to the net. Horman passed through the slot to Trent Bliss who buried it in front of a delighted Appleton student section.
Late in the period, Liam Johnson put United up by two goals. Johnson was parked on the back door and got a perfect pass from Nathan Zilisch for a one-timer into the open net.
Phinney stopped all 11 shots in the second period, while Angle stopped 13 for the Pirates.
Bay Port started to claw their way back into the game midway through the third period. With the puck in the Appleton zone, Connor Bagnieski put a shot on net. Martin Suda battled a United defenseman for the loose puck and came away with it on the right side of the net. Suda passed to Logan Froberg whose one-timer from the top of the crease cut the United lead in half.
Appleton answered that less than two minutes later. Matthew Baker fed a long pass to Zilisch who was behind the Bay Port defense. Zilisch raced up the right side and put a backhand through Angle's legs to get the two-goal lead back with six and a half minutes left in regulation.
From that point on, the Appleton defense, led by Kieran Brosnan, Michael Alfaro, Keegan Gallup, and Mitchell Lund, built a fort in front of Phinney and denied access to any Pirates.
Final shot totals for the game were 32 for Bay Port and 36 for Appleton United.