Saturday evening at the Waupun Community Center was one of those special evenings you find in the hockey “family”. That is a separate story to be shared independent of the hockey game itself. The game turned out to be a battle of wills and strong defense by the Stars and freshman goalie Malcolm Jennings.
In front of a packed house, the Warriors pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Stars. The first period was dominated by the Warriors. The puck was in the Warriors offensive zone for more than 11 minutes of the period. The Warriors out shot the Stars 3 to 1 in the first period. And there were numerous high quality chances for the Warriors. By the end of the first period when all was said and done, the score was exactly the same as the start of the game: 0 - 0. Waupun had 15 shots on goal against Jennings and at least the same number of blocked shots while Brookfield was able to put only 5 shots on Waupun Goalie Caleb Sauer of which 2 came from icing attempts that went on goal. It was a perfect start for Brookfield and for Jennings to gain confidence in net especially with a huge hometown crowd for the Warriors.
The second period continued just like the first. The Warriors continued to dominate the Stars defensive zone. Waupun was unable to find a way to get the puck in the back of the net. You could see the frustration building on the Warrior players as the Stars defense continued to block shots and those that get through towards the net, Jennings was able to stop for crossing the goal line.
And then it happened.
The Warriors were working the puck around the Stars zone. The puck went to one of the Warrior defensemen who was already pinching hard. A little hesitation,which seemed to be the Warriors struggle thus far in the game, took place before finally winding up to take a slap shot. The puck hit the shin guards of one of the Stars forwards and rebounded right to Jackson Buckley near the blue line. Buckley made a quick pass to teammate Michael Chavez who was already streaking toward the Warriors zone creating a 3 on 1 odd man rush. The Warriors defenseman Griffin Levey was caught in the middle and tried to take away the passing lane. Sauer was squared on Chavez. Chavez was able to make a hard clean pass to Nathan Rozman who was able to tip the puck into the before Sauer could react and stop the backdoor tip. At the 8:00 minute mark of the 2nd period, the Stars broke the scoreless game to take a 1-0 lead Rozman from Chavez and Buckley.
The Warriors who dominated in shots and time in the offensive zone found themselves down in their Pink Out charity game. If there was frustration before, Waupun was really disappointed now. How could the Warriors offense possibly turn up the pressure any more than they have?
With 2:27 left in the second period, Waupun was finally able to get the puck past Jennings. Jarrett Buchholz was able to gain control of puck off the half wall of the Warriors defensive zone after the Stars tried to set up an offensive attack. Buchholz was able to see Baron Buchholz breaking from center ice and hit him with a saucer pass over the outstretched stick of the Stars defensemen. Baron Buchholz took the puck and after crossing the blue line ripped a hard slap shot. This time it was not blocked by a Stars player and was directly on net. The puck traveled on the ice right through the five hole of Jennings to even the score at 1 a piece.
Less than a minute later, the Warriors had another great opportunity to take over the game. The Stars were called for interference putting the Warriors on the power play right at the end of the second period. After just scoring, the Warriors hoped to take advantage of the freshman goalie. Jennings and his penalty killers held strong ending the period with a 1-1 tie. Once again the Warriors put twice as many shots on net as the stars 16 to 9.
For the 2nd game in a row, the Stars had a top 15 team on the ropes. Would they be able to close the door this time in the 3rd period? Would the Warriors for back to back years lose to the under-rated Stars? I am sure these thoughts were running through the players and coaches minds during the intermission.
Waupun came out in the third determined to make sure they didn’t disappoint the max capacity home crowd. They were relentless in attacking the Stars. It looked just like the 1st period all over again. The Warriors dominated their offensive zone. However, the Stars defense continued to block shots before they got to the net. Those that got through, Jennings was able to make the initial save while his defense cleared the puck for any second chance.
Then with a little over 4 minutes left in the game, the Warriors finally lit the lamp. Waupun had control of the puck in the right corner just after the penalty ended. Jarrett Buchholz moved the puck to Colin Holz just to the right of Jennings above the goal line. Holz was able to see Cameron Beek on the opposite side of the net near the edge of the face off circle and made a clean on ice pass. Beek received the puck and fired it at the net immediately beating Jennings top shelf to give the Warriors the 2-1 lead. The home crowd dressed mostly in pink erupted as the goal was called.
After the game Dan Larson spoke to the game winning sniper. Beek commented, “I looked up before the puck came to me and I saw the top left was open — (Jennings) was playing glove side really hard, so I just went blocker side and it went in.
“We’d been trying get to the middle all game,” he said. “It came out to me and I picked a spot and shot.
Beek also commented on the last 2 minutes of the game when asked if he was worried at all with the penalty. “A big problem with our team throughout the whole year and years past is we take a lot of penalties. And it just puts a lot of stress on the penalty killers and goalie,” Beek said.
Buchholz also commented about the penalty towards the end of the game. “You never want to take that penalty — you want to play five-on-five — but it worked in our favor here because we just killed off the last two minutes,” Jason Buchholz said. “You get that free icing shot, and that was kind of our advantage — we were able to force them to turn it over and not ever really set up their power play, and really kill the rest of the game by just sending it down to the other end.”
The Warriors seemed to have the game in hand as they continued to attack. Then the penalty bug once again bit the Warriors. With 1:46 left in the game, the Warriors were called for too many men on the ice putting the Stars on the power play. Fortunately for the Warriors, their penalty kill has been very solid as of late. The Warriors were able to hold off the Stars power play to end the game with a 2-1 victory. Jennings ended up with 41 saves in the game with a similar number of blocked shots by the Stars defense. Caleb Sauer finished the game with 17 saves.
After the game, Dan Larson from the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen caught up with Coach Jason Buchholz. “We dominated most of the game, we just weren’t putting the puck in the net,” said Waupun head coach Jason Buchholz, whose team finished with a 43-18 advantage in shots on goal. “It was a 2-1 game on the scoreboard, but we feel that there could have easily been quite a few more goals in there.
“We just weren’t hitting the back of the net like we should have, and we’ve really got to learn how to finish (off) teams that we should probably beat by three or four goals.”
The Warriors now 10-2-1, will take on Fond du Lac in a Badgerland conference battle for the Cowan Cup which was created to recognize all that Mike Cowan has contributed to hockey for both the Waupun and Fond du Lac communities at the youth, high school, and collegiate level.
Waupun goalie Caleb Sauer's helmet
Michael Chavez (26) screening Sauer during power play in the 1st period
Sauer warming up before the 2nd period
Sauer with a save while Parker Esswein (19) waits for a rebound and Cameron Beek (12) looks to help clear
Waupun's Malachi Buchholz (front) tries to control the puck in the neutral zone as Brookfield's Jackson Buckley does the same (Photo by Mark McMullen)
Carson Schramm (18) trying to clear the puck