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Notre Dame hockey rallies with power-play goals

By Murray Gleffe

ASHWAUBENON — Trailing 1-0 with less than six minutes remaining in the second period, the Notre Dame Academy hockey team needed something good to happen.

Then, Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) took two penalties in the span of a minute.

Brenden Gruber and Brendan Poshak made the visitors pay for their mistakes by scoring  power-play goals in succession for the Tritons.

The two goals helped Notre Dame to a 4-1 victory over the Panthers in a nonconference game Jan. 28 at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, the home of the Green Bay Gamblers junior hockey league team.

“The power-play goals were huge for us,” said Cory McCracken, Notre Dame head coach. “Our skills showed up in the second period. We delivered quite a few shots in on their goaltender, and we built the momentum from there. I think it put SPASH back on its heels heading into the final period.”

Xander Roberts stopped 21 shots in goal for the Tritons, while Jonathon Nafe corralled 26 for SPASH.

The Tritons didn’t do themselves any favors in the early going, as they turned the puck over in their zone three times in the first five minutes of the game.

The Panthers made Notre Dame pay with a goal by Lucca Weinkauf with 12:40 left in the first period.

“We had two weeks off with some COVID-19 issues,” said McCracken. “I expected our group to be jumpy and disconnected out of the gate. We didn’t have our legs in the first.”

Roberts kept the Panthers from adding any further goals with his stellar play between the pipes.

“Xander kept us in the game early,” McCracken said. “He had some tough shots which were deflected and sent in. He stayed the course.”

With SPASH up 1-0 after the first period, Notre Dame started to hit its stride midway through the second period.

It appeared the Tritons had evened the score at 1-1 when Poshak gathered the puck at mid-ice, made two moves while getting hooked and put the puck in top shelf.

However, the head linesman ruled the puck danced around the cage and didn’t go in.

Already down a man, the Panthers took another bad penalty a minute later, as the Tritons went on a 5-on-3 advantage.

Gruber capitalized first with 4:14 remaining, and then Poshak with 3:23 left in the middle stanza to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead.

“It’s special when the kids get an opportunity to play where top juniors take the ice,” McCracken said. “It’s unfortunate more teams don’t get to utilize (the Resch Center). It would be a heck of a site for the state tournament.”

With the momentum on its side heading into the final period, Poshak stuck in a backhand with 13:46 remaining to give Notre Dame a two-goal advantage.

Hunter Bill put the final dagger on the Panthers with a goal in the final few minutes.

“The reason we play SPASH is because they are a younger team like we are, but they have some big wins,” McCracken said. “They are a stronger team now than they were in November. They are a dangerous out for whomever has to see them.”

Notre Dame was awarded a No. 1 seed in sectional 2 of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs starting Feb. 2.

Box score:

Stevens Point: 1, 0, 0 — 1

Notre Dame: 0, 2, 2 — 4

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