The idea of score early and often won the votes of the University School boys’ hockey team. The Wildcats scored quick goals and went on to handily defeat Sheboygan 7-0 in a Sectional 8 Regional Final of the WIAA state tournament playoffs on Friday, February 17th at USM.
Senior Nick Epperson led the third-seeded Wildcats with three goals during the game. He was joined on the scoresheet by senior Brandon McGill, junior Kylar Fenton, sophomore Robby Newton, and freshman Blake Carey. The Wildcats outshot the Red Raiders 39-25 in the game. Sophomore goaltenders Frank Fee and Gordy Leech combined to shutout Sheboygan. Fee played the first two periods and made 15 saves, while Leech played the third period and made 10 saves. Senior Eric Johnson made 32 saves in the net for the sixth-seeded Red Raiders.
Jason Woods, USM’s head coach, commented, “A nice win for us to start the playoff season. The quick goal to start and strong power play in the first made things easy. We didn't give up a ton of great chances and were able to play a lot of players. That should help in our quick turn around to Tuesday. We are blessed to get another home game Tuesday. We look forward to the opportunity.”
Not all the fans who bore witness to the game had taken their seats when the Wildcats scored the game winner. The puck from the opening faceoff went into the USM zone. Newton corralled it along the right boards and popped it up the boards to Carey. Carey won a battle for it and knocked it toward the middle. Epperson grabbed it, and cut to his right as he crossed into the Sheboygan zone. Then he swooped toward the goal. As he flew past Johnson, he flung a shot into the net at 0:21.
It wasn’t long before Wildcats scored again. Skating across the Sheboygan blue line, Epperson cut to the left and dropped the puck to senior Logan Geisness at the point. Geisness skated down the boards. From the lower circle Geisness crossed a pass to McGill in the right circle. McGill one-timed it in at 2:36. The goal was the first of the Wildcats’ three power play goals in the period.
USM scored another power play goal at 8:43. From the left point, Fenton passed the puck to Geisness on the left mid-boards. Geisness crossed a pass to Epperson. From the right circle, Epperson skated into the slot and fired a bullet past Johnson to give USM a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats added another power play goal in the waning seconds of the first period. As the Wildcats moved the puck around the Sheboygan zone, Fenton took a pass from Epperson at the blue line. He passed it over to Geisness at the left boards. Geisness spun toward the boards. As he whirled back around, he crossed the puck back to Fenton. Fenton skated into the right circle and zipped a wrist shot into the net at 16:40.
USM then scored two goals in the first 26 seconds of the second period. The draw from the period’s opening faceoff went back to a Sheboygan defender. He pushed it into center ice. Carey snared it and skated into Red Raider territory. He crossed to the left circle, dropping the puck to Epperson as he passed by. Epperson wheeled through the circle and gunned a shot into the net at 0:11.
USM quickly made the score 6-0. From the USM zone, Fenton lined a pass to Carey in the middle of the center ice. Carey passed it over to Newton who roared down the right boards as he crossed into the Red Raiders’ zone. From the circle, Newton passed it back to Carey who swiftly fired a shot into the net at 0:26.
The six-goal lead put the clock on running time for the remainder of the game. The Wildcats had time to score one more goal. It came at 12:05 of the third period. Carey stopped a Sheboygan breakout pass at the blue line and chipped the puck down the boards to Epperson. Epperson saw Newton roaring down the slot like a race car. He centered the puck; Newton fired and scored.
USM is now 19-6. The Wildcats play Brookfield in a Sectional 8 Semi-final game in the WIAA state tournament playoffs at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21st at USM.