Notre Dame hockey one step away from state
By Murray Gleffe
ASHWAUBENON – There’s a reason Notre Dame Academy hockey head coach Cory McCracken assembles a tough regular-season schedule each season – it prepares his team for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) playoffs.
So far, this postseason, the Tritons have looked unstoppable.
In the latest chapter, No. 1-seeded Notre Dame defeated No. 4 De Pere 7-2 in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal game Feb. 9 at the Cornerstone Community Ice Center in Ashwaubenon.
“We got a little jumpy early,” said McCracken. “I liked our last two periods. We knew De Pere would come out with lots of energy the first 10 minutes of the game. After that, our offense clicked, and we generated quite a few chances with the puck.”
Xander Roberts made eight saves in goal for the Tritons, while Henry Allen stopped 30 shots for the Voyageurs.
Underdog De Pere struck first three minutes into the game.
Grady Coppo took the puck on the far-right boards, made a move on Roberts and scored for a 1-0 lead.
“The fast start was a big jolt right away,” said JP Coppo, De Pere head coach. “It gave us a good first period.”
Though the Voyageurs had all the momentum, they gave it right back, taking two penalties in the span of a minute.
Notre Dame took advantage on the power play, as Travis Pokel blasted a slapshot past Allen to even the score 1-1.
The Tritons then showed why they are one of the top-ranked teams in the state.
With 1:33 remaining in the opening period, the puck slipped out to Brendan Poshak, who used his speed and skill to beat Allen to give Notre Dame a 2-1 advantage.
Eighteen seconds later, Nick Voss put the Tritons up 3-1 after one.
“We have the ability in our lineup to score multiple goals back-to-back,” McCracken said. “Toward the end of the period, we didn’t force and let the game come to us.”
Midway through the second, Notre Dame increased its lead to 4-1 after Michael McIntee sent a nice cross to Joe Gerbitz, who scored easily.
Late in the middle period, De Pere had a two-man advantage, but the Tritons’ Callan Budinger held the puck against the boards for about 35 seconds to turn away any chance the Voyageurs had of closing the margin.
Voss added his second goal two minutes into the final period.
“Nick had a good game,” said McCracken. “He’s starting to gain confidence as a freshman. It hasn’t translated on the score sheet what he has accomplished.”
Trailing 5-1, De Pere’s Charlie Eggers netted a power-play goal with less than 12 minutes remaining.
Down the stretch, Notre Dame added goals by Joseph Coghlin and Blake Osbahr.
The Tritons will take on No. 3 Bay Port Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Champion Center in Appleton for the right to attend the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.
The Pirates won their sectional semifinal game against Neenah, 2-1.
The state tournament will take place at the South Wood County Rink in Wisconsin Rapids.
State semifinal games will be played Thursday, Feb. 18, while the title game is Saturday, Feb. 20.
“We’ve worked all year to get ourselves to this point,” said McCracken. “It’s going to be a tough game (against Bay Port). We’ll put a game plan in place for us to have success. We’re not foreign to the sectional final – this is our fourth straight year being in it. We have tons of experience, but we have to start the game the right way and play a solid 51 minutes.”
The Tritons beat the Pirates earlier this season, 4-1.
De Pere: 1, 0, 1 — 2
Notre Dame: 3, 1, 3 — 7