In the opening round of the Girls Hockey Classic Tournament at University School, the USM co-op team defeated Northland Pines 8-2 in a non-conference contest on Friday, December 7th.
The Wildcats out shot their visitors 40-10 in the contest. Despite the lopsided shot totals, the Eagles took an early 1-0 lead when Grace Wittkopf knocked the puck from a defender’s stick near the crease and snapped the Eagles’ first shot into the net past Sami Stommel, the Wildcats’ starting goaltender, just 5:14 into the game.
Michaela Fritz, one of USM’s captains commented, “We came out flat, and their first goal was a turning point for us. We started to run our systems and played well.”
The Eagles’ goal pulled the Wildcats from the doldrums and put fresh wind into their sails. As Fritz stated, they began to skate harder and play good hockey. Their renewed efforts soon paid off.
As the Wildcats forechecked, the puck came to Fritz at the right point. A defender stopped her low shot, but Jordan Bonk skated hard to stop the Pines’ breakout play near the blue line and threw the puck to the left boards. Lexie Epperson got it and dumped it deeper into the left corner. Karly Lamoreaux retrieved it and passed it out to Hannah Neudorfer in the right circle. Neudorfer then passed it to Epperson in the high slot. Epperson then sent it down to Lamoreaux, who was all alone in the left circle. Lamoreaux caught the pass, spun, and fired the puck past the Eagles’ goalie, Ashlynn Boxrucker at 7:40.
The Wildcats took the lead just over two minutes later. Forechecking aggressively, Kinzie Youngblood angled a Pines defender into the boards just outside the Eagles’ blue line. Bonk got the loose puck and skated into the Eagles’ end as Gaby Turer joined the rush. Bonk crossed the puck to Turer who fired a wrist shot from the slot that beat Boxrucker at 9:44.
The Wildcats were rolling, and they quickly scored the eventual game winner. Fritz stopped an Eagles’ clearing attempt at the right point, and fired the puck toward the far goal post. Lamoreaux caught the puck and took a shot. The rebound slipped to the side, and Hannah Neudorfer zipped it into the net at 10:16.
The Wildcats scored their fourth goal early in the second period while on a power play. Defenseman Jenna Klenz collected a loose puck along the left boards in the Wildcats’ zone, swung toward the middle, and stickhandled through center ice. As she crossed into Pines’ territory, she gunned a shot that flew just inside the goal post at 1:07.
The Wildcats made it 5-1 at 1:38. Zoe Uihlein started the play by taking a shot from the left point in the Eagles’ zone. The rebound caromed to the left corner where Hannah Neudorfer stopped it then passed it out to the slot. The puck hit Lamoreaux’s stick and skittered to Fritz who was sliding in from the point. Fritz one-timed a shot into the net.
USM went ahead 6-1 while on another power play. Off a face-off at the right center-ice dot, the puck went to Youngblood who passed it back to Klenz. Klenz hit Turer with a pass as Turer skated across to the right. In turn, Turer passed it to Youngblood who waiting at the blue line like she was at a bus stop. Youngblood took a few steps in, then whistled a shot from the high slot into the Eagles’ net at 10:52.
The Wildcats put the clock on running time with their next goal at 13:06. Forechecking, Zoe Neudorfer knocked the puck into the right corner to Natalie Epperson. Epperson won a battle for it then backhanded it into the slot. Layne Diffley was well-positioned there. She received the pass on her backhand then twirled like a tornado and blew a forehand shot past Boxrucker to give the Wildcats a six-goal lead.
The Wildcats increased that lead in the third period. As they forechecked, a loose puck slid to defenseman Libby Hennelly at the right point. Hennelly bulleted a shot toward the far post that made it into the netting at 10:22.
The Eagles scored the second goal at 12:33. Skating out of the Eagles’ zone on a three-on-two play, Wittkopf passed it to Halle Kerner on the left boards. Kerner fired a pass cross-ice to Cailey Coopman who was buzzing down the right boards. Coopman moved into the right circle, pulled the puck around the two USM defensemen who had converged on her, and passed it to Kerner, who had moved unchecked toward the left post. Kerner swiftly snapped a backhander past Anna Schultz, who had replaced Stommel for the third period.
After the game, Dan Carey, USM’s head coach, said, “Our girls played pretty well. It was great that we were able to get contributions from everyone tonight.”
Looking ahead to the tournament’s championship finale, Carey added, “Saturday night's game is going to be a bigger challenge for us. We will need to move the puck quicker and prevent the odd-man rushes. Should be an exciting championship game."
Northland Pines is now 1-5. The Eagles play Arrowhead in the Girls Hockey Classic consolation game. The non-conference game is scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 8th at USM.
The victory gave USM a 5-2 record. The Wildcats play the Cap City Cougars of Sun Prairie in a non-conference game for the tournament championship at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 8th at USM.