The University School boys’ hockey team broke open the game with four goals in the third period to defeat Onalaska 7-2 in a non-conference tilt on Friday, February 10th at USM.
Freshman Blake Carey led the Wildcats with two goals. His teammates seniors Nick Epperson, and Logan Geisness and sophomores Andrew Malek, Robby Newton, and Christian Blomquist contributed a goal apiece to USM’s win. Freshmen CJ Lass and Carter Stobb scored Onalaska’s goals.
“I’m really happy for these guys tonight,” said USM’s head coach, Jason Woods. “I asked them to look at this game as their first playoff game, and they took that to heart. We were facing maybe the hottest team in the state at 19-3, winners of sixteen straight games, and we played our best game of the year. Five-on-five, Onalaska didn't have many chances at all, and we put the puck in the net. Our puck movement was outstanding. We just seem to be doing all the little things well. We seem to be playing our best hockey headed to the playoffs, and that is where you need to be.”
The final game of the regular season for two of the state’s quality teams was close through the first two periods. The shot totals during those periods were 15-13, USM. The Wildcats went ahead with two goals in the first period. Onalaska forged back into a tie with power play goals late in the first and early in the second. Only Epperson’s goal at 6:06 of the second period separated the teams on the scoreboard.
Malek began the scoring at 9:08 of the first period. He took a pass from Blomquist, skated around a defender, cut across the low slot, and pumped a shot past Hayes Weiner, Onalaska’s junior goalie.
The Wildcats increased their lead to two late in the same period. Geisness took a pass from Newton at the left point. He walked the puck toward the center of the Onalaska blue line and rocketed a slap shot netward. Carey reached out his stick and tipped it in at 13:40.
The Hilltoppers made use of a power play to pull closer. They set up in the USM end and moved the puck around. It went to sophomore Ryan Gargaro at the right point. He passed it to the center of the slot to junior Jacob Dirks who fired a shot at Frank Fee, USM’s sophomore goaltender. The rebound off Fee’s pads went to the left circle. Lass got the puck, did a spin-aroma, and fired a low shot just inside the far post with just 45 seconds left in the period.
Onalaska tied the game on another power play in the opening moments of the second period. Skating out of the Onalaska end, Stobb forwarded a pass into center ice to Dirks. Dirks skated into the USM and slowed down, allowing Stobb to fight his way past a defender and head to the net. Dirks gunned a low shot that Stobb tipped past Fee at 3:34.
USM scored the game winning goal a few minutes later. From the USM end, Carey passed the puck along the boards ahead of Epperson. Epperson out-skated a defenseman for the puck and burst past him. Epperson skated into the left circle. Like a sharpshooter with a perfect gunsight, he sniped his shot into the far upper corner past Weiner at 6:06.
The play stayed close for the remainder of the second period. No more goals were scored. That set up USM’s domination of the final period. The Wildcats outshot the Hilltoppers 13-7 in the frame and outscored them 4-0.
It took less than a minute for the Wildcats to score their first goal in the period. In center ice, Newton won a battle for the puck and tipped it to Epperson who moved across the Onalaska blue line. Epperson centered it to Newton who skated into the high slot and fired a rising shot. It hit off of Weiner’s glove and proceeded to dribble down and cross the goal line at 0:50.
USM went ahead 5-2 on a short-handed goal at 8:27. Geisness blocked a shot in the USM end. He raced to the loose puck then took off on a breakaway trip up ice. He moved in on Weiner, made a move forcing the goalie to drop, then shoved the puck through his five-hole.
Carey scored his second goal a little less than a minute later. Newton stopped a Hilltopper clearing attempt along the right boards, skated into the near corner then passed the puck to Carey in the circle. Carey backhanded a shot that got by Weiner at 9:20.
The Wildcats finalized the night’s scoring late in the period. Skating out of the right corner in Onalaska territory, Malek moved along the boards then passed the puck to senior Leo Simanonok at the far point. Simanonok fired a low shot toward the net. Blomquist caught it, turned and shot. The rebound came back to him, and he buried it at 15:33.
Onalaska finished the regular season with a 19-4 record. The Hilltoppers take on the winner of Tuesday’s regional game between Baraboo and Sparta in a Sectional 4 Regional Final of the WIAA state tournament playoffs on Thursday, February 16th at the Omni Center in Onalaska.
USM ended the regular season at 18-6. The Wildcats play the winner of Tuesday’s regional game between Cedarburg and Sheboygan in a Sectional 8 Regional Final of the WIAA state tournament playoffs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 17th at USM.