The Polly and Henry Uihlein Ice Arena at University School was packed when two of Milwaukee’s boys’ hockey teams renewed their rivalry on Tuesday night. The USM Wildcats gave the fans a fine display of hockey. They snared their first Classic Eight Conference victory by conquering Marquette, 5-0.
It was a satisfying victory. The Wildcats scored their five goals with team work, individual skill, and solid special team play. Sophomore Robby Newton scored two goals for USM. Seniors Nick Epperson and Logan Geisness each scored one, as did junior Will Kennedy. USM’s sophomore goaltender, Frank Fee, turned aside all 16 shots the Hilltoppers put on goal to record his second shutout of the season.
USM’s head coach, Jason Woods, was effusive in his comments about the team’s praiseworthy play, “Great effort by the guys tonight. I like where we are headed, and I like who we are becoming. I know this: we are a much better group today than we were a few weeks back. We are growing up. Moving Will Kennedy to forward was a game changer for us. Watching him play, and how hard he plays is intoxicating. We know what we are going to get from Nick and Logan; they are stars at this level, but the play of these other guys is the key. Brandon McGill playing the way he did tonight, Andrew Malek becoming special, Robby Newton finding the back of the net. Tim Rooney finding his role. Really, up and down the line up we are getting better play. The defense has stepped up, and our goalies, led by Frank Fee, are finding their groove.”
As evidenced by the save totals, 8-8, the first period’s play was even for most of the seventeen minutes with good back and forth hockey. But then, in the final minutes, the Wildcats broke the game open with three straight goals.
The first was the result of a well-executed power play. The Wildcats had the puck in the Hilltoppers’ zone and moved it around with patience and perseverance. Skating with the puck along the blue line, Epperson criss-crossed with Geisness. He dropped a pass to Geisness who proceeded to skate down the right boards. Geisness sent a diagonal pass across the slot to junior Kylar Fenton who had snuck into the lower left circle. Fenton immediately put a shot on goal. Zach Schmidt, Marquette’s junior goalie, blocked it, but Kennedy was on the doorstep like the morning newspaper, and he pushed the puck past Schmidt at 13:10.
Seconds later it was 2-0. The Wildcats got the puck into Marquette’s zone, but the Hilltoppers attempted a clear. The puck came to USM’s freshman defenseman, Casey Roepke, in center ice. Roepke stickhandled around a check, skated into the slot, and dished a pass to Newton on the right mid-boards. Without hesitating, Newton fired a high shot that befuddled Schmidt as it flew by at 13:29.
Suddenly it was 3-0. Starting a breakout from the USM zone, senior Charlie Mahoney passed the puck from the left corner to senior Brandon McGill on the nearside mid-boards. McGill whizzed a pass into center ice to Geisness. Geisness dashed across the Marquette blue line and lasered a shot past Schmidt at 16:45.
The Wildcats scored their fourth goal late in the second period. The Wildcats were short-handed; nonetheless, sophomore Andrew Malek and Newton forechecked like wolves after a tired caribou. Malek captured the puck along the right boards in the Hilltoppers’ end, swerved across the high slot, and, without looking, slipped a pass back to Newton near the right circle. Newton one-timed a shot, then, following his shot to the net, put in the rebound at 13:01.
The Wildcats scored the game’s final goal at 15:51 of the second period on a spectacular individual effort by Epperson. In the USM zone, McGill knocked the puck off a Marquette player’s stick. It skittered to Epperson. He sped off. Stickhandling across the Hilltoppers’ blue line, he mesmerized a defender and swirled past him. He bore in on Schmidt. Nearing the crease, he shot the puck and fell. The startled goalie missed the puck, and USM had a 5-0 lead.
The teams did not score in the final frame. Fee and his defensive compatriots kept the Hilltoppers from getting any great scoring chances, and the Wildcats had the latest victory in a long-line of games between the two old foes.
Marquette is now 7-7 and 1-5 in the Classic Eight Conference. USM is 8-4 and 1-2 in the conference. The Wildcats play Greendale in a Classic Eight Conference game at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, January 13th at Wilson Park in Milwaukee.