It’s amazing how swiftly a setback can change to success or an opportunity can turn to misfortune. Jenna Klenz made that point. Her short-handed goal with less than six minutes remaining in the Regional Final between the University School co-op and Arrowhead girls’ hockey teams gave the Wildcats a 1-0 victory. It ruined the Warhawks’ power play and their chance for an upset in the WIAA state tournament playoffs on Friday, February 15th at USM.
The Warhawks had stymied the Wildcats throughout the game. Although the home team outshot Arrowhead 34-9 in the contest, junior goalie Emma Tate had turned aside every shot, making the possibility of an upset by the 6th seeded Warhawks over the 3rd seeded Wildcats increase with every minute.
The Wildcats received a penalty late in the third period, giving the Warhawks an added opportunity. Arrowhead called a time-out to prepare the Warhawks’ power play unit. But the time-out also gave the Wildcats a chance to rest their penalty killers, who were weary, having already worked to kill four previous penalties.
Klenz, a senior captain and a defenseman, was one of those penalty killers. She and her three teammates knew they had received another setback, and they were faced with a tough situation. A goal that late in the game could decide it.
As the power play began, the Warhawks had the puck in the USM zone. It bounced away from their control. Klenz rushed to get the loose puck then decided to skate it out of the zone away from danger.
She described what occurred, “I was pretty stressed throughout the whole game about the score and was getting frustrated that we hadn’t scored yet because we were making good plays. So when we got the penalty, I got nervous but knew we could kill it off and then win the game. When I saw the puck bobble and no one on it, I just took off and, honestly, hoped for the best because I knew it was a risky play, but at this point in the game I knew it was all or nothing. As I came in on their D, I could feel pressure behind me so I knew had to react fast. I’m used to shooting high, but their goalie’s glove is insane, so I decided at the last second to try something new. I pulled the puck back first then flipped it to my backhand and in between her legs. It was probably one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had because I knew right then and there that this game was ours. It also felt really good to get us the lead, especially on the penalty kill since we were all so down on ourselves.”
Klenz’s unassisted goal at 11:12 of the third period did decide the game. But the misfortune seemed to take the fight from the Warhawks. The Wildcats killed the remainder of the penalty and kept the Warhawks from mounting any real scoring pressure, even when they pulled Tate for an extra skater in the game’s final 30 seconds. The Wildcats held on, giving their freshman goaltender Sami Stommel the playoff shutout and insuring their success.
Dan Carey, the Wildcats' head coach, said, "I don’t think we played our best game tonight, but we got the win. The girls killed five penalties, and Jenna’s leadership and efforts tonight should be applauded. Her short-handed goal saved the season. We will need to play to the top of our ability as individuals and more importantly as a team on Tuesday night. I know we can do it."
As Carey implied, the victory gave USM the opportunity to move on in the state tournament playoffs. The Wildcats, who now have a 17-8 record, will play the Sectional 4’s number 1 seed, the Fox Cities Stars, in a sectional semi-final game at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19th at the Tri-County Ice Arena in Neenah.