In a game that matched the past two state champions, University School defeated Wausau West 4-3 in overtime Saturday.
The game was close throughout, and the fans who came to USM to watch it witnessed a thrilling show of well-played, quality hockey.
After a lackluster performance on Friday, the Wildcats gave a determined effort in their game against the reigning state champions. Consequently, they took the lead early in the first period. USM sophomore Vadim Sukhanov sent a breakout pass to senior forward Corey Roadhouse who sped down the right boards. Moving into the Warriors zone, Roadhouse passed the puck back to senior Ashton Wackym who was trailing the play. Receiving the puck, Wackym skated into the circle and drilled a shot past Wausau West's sophomore goalie Sam Wiegert at 3:06.
The Warriors tied the score on a power play midway through the first period. Senior Kyle Lee fired a shot that USM's sophomore goaltender Bryan Botcher stopped. The rebound came out to Wausau West senior Alex Halbrook who was skating unchecked into the slot. Halbrook slammed the loose puck into the USM net at 9:36.
The tie was temporary. USM regained the lead a few minutes later. Off a face off in the USM end, Roadhouse collected the puck and took off like a cruise missile down the right side. He moved into the Warriors end and crossed a pass past the Warrior defenseman to senior Kenny Servis who had joined the 2-on-1 rush. Servis gunned a shot over Weigert's glove and into the net at 11:42.
The score stayed at 2-1 until late in the second period when Wausau West tied it once again on a power play. Junior John Feemster stopped a USM clear on the right boards just inside the USM blue line. He blazed a shot at Botcher, who stopped it. The puck caromed out to senior Tom Kilgore who was moving toward the net unimpeded on the left side. Kilgore immediately blasted it into the net at 12:12.
USM took the lead once more on a power play in the last two minutes of the second period. The Wildcats patiently passed the puck around the Warriors' zone. It went to Roadhouse in the left corner. He passed it out to junior Joey Judge in the near circle. Judge moved around a defender and scorched a shot at Weigert. The puck rebounded to Wackym, who was racing through the left circle toward the net. Wackym whipped a quick, hard shot into the net at 15:28.
The Wildcats held the 3-2 lead until late in the third period. A break in the boards midway through the third period stopped play and gave Wausau West some needed rest from USM's forechecking. The Warriors seemed revived after play resumed, and they took the play to the Wildcats. They eventually tied the score at 12:31 when senior Seth Wage intercepted a poor clearing pass at the left point and passed it across the blue line to Feemster. Feemster stepped in and lined a shot into the far upper side of the net.
Wausau West nearly won the game in the final seconds of regulation time, but good Wildcat backchecking, a fine save by Botcher, and a last second missed shot sent the game into overtime.
The Warriors had a shot that Botcher saved early in the overtime. But the Wildcats soon got the puck into the Wausau West end and applied forechecking pressure. At 2:11 of the eight-minute overtime, the Warriors made an errant clearing attempt. USM sophomore Duncan Brown pounced on the loose puck at the top of the right circle. He skated deeper into the circle and rifled a shot into the far side of the net to win it for USM.
In the game, Weigert made 13 saves, and Botcher made 28 saves.
Wausau West is now 2-3. USM is 2-4. The Wildcats will take the confidence gained from the victory into their game against Arrowhead in Hartland at 7:00 p.m. On Tuesday.