The Fox Cities Stars jumped to a 4-0 lead over the University School co-op girls’ hockey team and held on for a 4-2 victory over the Wildcats in the semi-finals of the Eastern Shores Conference Tournament on Friday, February 1st at USM.
The Stars outskated and outplayed their hosts in the game’s first two periods. In those two periods, they outshot the Wildcats by a slim margin, 17-15, but their hustle and effort gave them a distinct edge, and they made sure on four of their shots. Lauryn Hull scored two goals for the Stars, and Tori Nelson and Annika Horman scored one each. Hattie Berndt, the Stars’ goalie, stopped all of the Wildcats attempts in the two periods.
The Wildcats rallied in the third period, outshot their visitors 12-5, and scored two goals on shots by Lexie Epperson and Kinzie Youngblood. But it was too little too late.
Dan Carey, USM’s head coach commented on the tough loss for the Wildcats, "Hats off to Fox Cities. They are a very good team and moved the puck well. I thought we played and competed in the third period, but we are getting to the point in the season where we need to play our best for all three periods.”
The first period was close, but Fox Cities took advantage of a late power play to make the score 1-0. As the Stars moved the puck in the Wildcats’ zone, it went to the point to Nelson who fired it at Sami Stommel, USM’s goaltender. The puck rebounded to Maddy Jarlonski in the high slot, and she took a shot. The rebound of her shot bounced to the right side. Hull clubbed it in at 14:55.
The opening goal of the game spurred the Stars on. They added three more in the second period.
The first of these came just 1:17 in. Along the left boards in the Wildcats’ zone, Horman knocked the puck away from a winger as the Wildcats attempted a breakout. The puck went to Nelson at the point. She skated into the slot and fired a bullet past Stommel.
The Stars scored again just over a minute later. This time, it was Horman who stopped a Wildcat breakout play along the left boards. She passed the puck to Hull in the near corner. Hull passed it right back as Horman skated across the slot. Horman then fired it into the net at 2:50.
Fox Cities made it 4-0 late in the period. In the Stars’ end, Hull passed the puck to Jarlonski in the high slot. She flipped it into center ice to Horman, who was flying out between the two defensemen. Horman buzzed in on a breakaway, deked Stommel, and scored at 16:22.
The Wildcats were desperate, but they gave it their all in the third period. They forechecked hard and began firing the puck in earnest. Eventually they got a goal.
It happened when Michaela Fritz line the puck across center ice ahead of Epperson. Epperson raced after it, got it and went into the Stars zone on a semi-breakaway. As a defenseman approached her in the left circle, she gunned a low shot that befuddled Berndt. It slipped behind her for the goal at 6:35.
Enlivened, the Wildcats geared their game up even more. The effort they displayed produced their second goal just under a minute later. Youngblood pickpocketed the puck from a defender along the left boards in the Stars’ zone. She passed it to Jordan Bonk nearby in the circle, Bonk then backhanded it toward the net. A defender knocked it back toward the circle. Youngblood was charging in and snared the loose puck. She stickhandled around the defender, swept to the right, and zipped a low shot under Berndt’s pads at 7:30.
The Wildcats kept coming, but an ill-advised penalty halted their fervor for two minutes, and they were never able to score again.
In the game, Berndt made 25 saves while Stommel stopped 18.
The Stars are 19-3 overall and 6-2 in the Eastern Shores Conference They play the Fond du Lac/ Beaver Dam Warbirds Alliance in the Eastern Shores Conference Tournament Championship game at 6:30 on Saturday, February 2nd at the Tri-County Ice Arena in Neenah.
USM is 13-8 and 5-3 in the Eastern Shores Conference. The Wildcats play the Wisconsin Valley Union for third place in the Eastern Shores Conference Tournament on Saturday, February 2nd at the Tri-County Ice Arena in Neenah.