Tyler Herzberg’s overtime goal gave the University School boys hockey team a 3-2 victory over Sun Prairie in a non-conference game at the Sun Prairie Ice Center on Saturday, February 10th.
The game ended regular season play for the two teams.
Jason Woods, USM’s head coach, commented on the game, “An exciting finish to the regular season. Sun Prairie is very solid, and I feel great coming out of there with a win. Tyler Herzberg continues to show he is an elite player in the making. He just makes things happen every game. 21-3 is an unreal regular season record for us, but now it's all about making some noise in the post season.”
The two teams tuned up for state tournament competition with a hard-fought game. The Wildcats out shot their hosts 47-12. Owen Leatherberry made 44 saves in the nets for the Cardinals. USM’s goaltender, Patrick Kelly stopped 10 of the 12 shots taken on him.
Neither team scored in the first period. Then all four of the regulation-time goals were scored in the second period.
Sun Prairie scored first. Along the boards in the Cardinals’ zone, Benett Halbleib took a hit from a pinching defenseman and popped the puck clear to Kaden Benson, who was swinging past. Benson and Travis Kernen headed into the USM zone on a two-on-one. As Benson moved down the right boards, he centered a pass to Kernen in the low slot. Kernen one-timed the puck past Kelly at 4:15.
The Wildcats answered a couple of minutes later. As the USM players forechecked in the Cardinals’ zone, Blake Carey gained control of a loose puck along the right boards. He passed it to Alex Thundercloud at the near point. Thundercloud walked the puck along the blue line then whipsawed a low shot through a screen and past Leatherberry at 6:28.
USM went ahead late in the period. Taking the puck on the mid-boards, Andrew Malek made one of USM’s standard stretch pass breakout plays by firing a pass to Robby Newton, who was cutting across into center ice. Newton wheeled to the right side and skated into the Cardinals’ zone. As he crossed the blue line, he faked a slap shot then sped down the side. Nearing the goal line, he gunned a low-angle shot that flew over Leatherberry’s glove and just inside the near post at 14:15.
Sun Prairie tied it back up with a goal in the last minute of the period. Kernen took a face off in the right circle of the USM zone. He drew the puck back to Halbleib who one-timed a wrist shot Kelly at 15:19.
There was no scoring in the third period, so the game went to overtime.
In the first minute of the extra period, Kelly stopped a breakaway. The Wildcats got the puck and headed the other way. Carey and Newton took off on a two-on-one. As he skated through the left circle, Carey crossed a pass to Newton. The pass missed and flew to the right boards. Newton chased the puck down and swung out to the blue line with three Cardinals chasing him. Herzberg slipped into the right circle. As Newton moved along the blue line, he backhanded a pass to Herzberg. Unguarded, Herzberg stepped into the slot and lined a shot into the net for the game winner at 1:24.
The Cardinals concluded their regular season with an 18-5-1 record. Sun Prairie opens WIAA state tournament play in the Sectional 6 Regional Final against Middleton at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 15th at the Sun Prairie Ice Center.
The close win gave the Wildcats impetus as they head into the state tournament. USM finished the regular season at 21-3. The Wildcats open WIAA state tournament play at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, February 16th in the Sectional 8 Regional Final against the winner of the Brookfield co-op Cedarburg Regional semi-final game to be played on Tuesday, February 13th.