Senior Stephan Priest scored an overtime goal to complete the Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha Rockets come-from behind 3-2 victory over the University School boys’ hockey in a non-conference game on Tuesday, November 21st at the Tri-County Ice Arena in Neenah.
Jason Woods, USM’s head coach, commented on the game, “Boy, what a great high school hockey game. Two really excellent teams battling in a season opener. I’m not much for moral victories, but we sure showed we are more than capable of being special. I credit Neenah; they are an excellent hockey team with a big future in front of them. They got the bounce they needed and fueled off that momentum. Our young guys proved very capable, and I am excited to keep working to get better.”
It was a close, back-and-forth battle, which the save totals bear out. USM junior goaltender, Gordy Leech made 27 saves; his counterpart, Rockets’ senior Preston Long had the exact same number.
Despite intense action, it wasn’t until late in the first period that one of the teams finally scored a goal. The Wildcats opened the scoring. Skating from behind the USM net, sophomore defenseman Casey Roepke passed the puck to junior forward Robby Newton on the right boards. Newton sent it up the boards to freshman Ethan Ford. Ford skated into the Rockets’ end. At the mid-boards, he stopped, spun and hit Newton on pass. Newton moved into the slot and gunned a shot past Long at 15:54.
The Wildcats took a 2-0 lead at 8:19 of the second period. In the right corner of the Rockets’ zone, junior Carson Mogush intercepted a clearing pass. He whirled and sped into the slot and took a hard wrist shot that whizzed into the net.
The Rockets’ began their comeback with a goal on a power play early in the third period. Senior Alec Elkin skated the puck into the USM end and went around the net. As he emerged, he passed the puck to the slot. It glanced off a defender to his younger brother, Luke Elkin at the right point. The freshman moved in and fired a high shot past Leech at 4:24.
The home team tied the score a few minutes later. During a USM change, Priest intercepted a clear on the right boards near the middle red line. He looked and spotted senior Ethan Blaney speeding along the far boards and passed the puck to him. Blaney skated to the top of the circle and whipped a shot past Leech for the goal at 7:27.
The remaining minutes of regulation time kept the near capacity crowd on the edge of their seats. But neither team scored, so the game moved into overtime. The next goal would decide the game.
Both teams had good attempts in overtime. Each took six shots in the eight-minute extra period. The Rockets won it on their seventh shot. Priest picked off a USM clearing attempt along the right mid-boards in the Wildcats’ end. He skated through a gap toward the net. From the circle, he fired the game-winning shot past Leech at 6:40.
Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha is 1-0. The Rockets host Appleton United in a Badgerland Conference game at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28th at the Tri-County Arena in Neenah. USM is now 0-1 and 0-0 in the Classic Eight Conference. The Wildcats play Waunakee in the opening round of the Paul Meyer Memorial Tournament at USM. The non-conference game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, November 24th.