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Comeback kids: Notre Dame advances to title game

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

MADISON – It’s not how you start but how you finish.

Despite falling behind 2-0 early, the Notre Dame Academy boys’ hockey team stormed back for a 5-3 victory over University School of Milwaukee (USM) in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal game March 6 in Madison.

With the victory, the No. 1-ranked Tritons will play No. 3 Verona (24-4) in the state finals Saturday, March 7, at approximately 2:30 p.m.

“This is a resilient group,” said Notre Dame head coach Cory McCracken. “We dug ourselves a hole early, but the guys rallied in the third period. Our defensive group got better as the game went on.”

Verona, which won a 1-0 overtime game over Chippewa Falls in the other semifinal, gave Notre Dame its lone loss of the season – a 3-1 setback in late December.

The Tritons returned the favor with a 3-2 victory over Verona Jan. 18.

USM jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period behind a pair of goals four minutes apart by Noah Eghball.

Notre Dame (25-1-1) didn’t help its cause by committing three minor penalties in the opening 17 minutes of play.

“We certainly didn’t start fast,” McCracken said. “[Notre Dame goalie] Bo [Buckley] would probably tell you he’d like the first goal back, but it might have been a case of being a little nervous. I was happy with Bo’s play during the last 30-35 minutes of the game. We had a couple of bad breakdowns on their second goal.”

It appeared the No. 4 Wildcats (20-7-1) would take their 2-0 lead into the third period, but the Tritons got an unassisted goal from Corbin Skinner from the point to make it a one-goal game.

“That was certainly a big momentum swing for us,” said McCracken.

Entering the final period, Notre Dame exploded for three goals in the first nine minutes for a 4-2 lead.

Charlie Wied, Sawyer Scholl and Riley Onell tallied before USM came to within a goal late with under four minutes remaining.

The Tritons added the clincher when Brendan Poshak scored with 1:15 left.

“Our goal all year has been to win a state title,” McCracken said. “We have the opportunity to bring home a title – we are playing on the last day of the season. Our energy level late was better than in the first period. We played the right way in the third period – we won body position, races to the pucks and stopped being a soft team. We got back to being the team we should be.”

Buckley saw 22 shots on goal and made 19 saves in net.

The Tritons, who won the 2012 state title with McCracken behind the bench, will be aiming for the program’s second championship.

“We were frustrated being down 2-0, but we knew there was lots of game left,” said Scholl, the Fox River Classic Conference Player of the Year. “If you ask any guy in our locker room, our mindset going into this game was we weren’t going to lose. There’s lots at stake going forward, but we have to try and treat it like a normal game and have the same mindset.”

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