Notre Dame hockey team punches ticket to state
By Murray Gleffe
APPLETON – It wasn’t easy at times, but the Notre Dame Academy hockey team is heading back to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament for the second consecutive season.
The Tritons scored a pair of second-period goals and hung on down the stretch to defeat Bay Port, 3-2, in a sectional final game Feb. 13 at the Community First Champion Center in Appleton.
“We knew whatever happened early, we have lots of experience in these types of settings,” said Cory McCracken, Notre Dame head coach. “No matter who scores the first goal, you have to get back to business. Bay Port had a good defensive game plan. Fortunately, we got things going in the second and third periods to pull through.”
It took some time for the nerves to settle down for both teams, as numerous icings occurred early on.
About six minutes in, Tritons forward Brendan Poshak went in unimpeded and was picked clean by Bay Port’s Sam Komoroske.
With only one shot on goal thus far, the Pirates struck first after Elliott Mikesch put in a goal off the skate of Notre Dame goaltender Xander Roberts for a 1-0 lead with 6:50 remaining in the opening period.
“If you’re going to have an opportunity to have success, your third line has to produce,” said Mike Buchan, Bay Port head coach. “Lots of teams only have one or two quality lines. Elliott scoring that goal for us gave us a huge lift in the early going.”
Seven minutes into the middle period, the No. 1-seeded Tritons got on the scoreboard when Callan Budinger poked a rebound past Pirates goaltender Marcus Niemi to even the score 1-1.
As good as Bay Port played for the first 23 minutes, it knocked itself in the foot 17 seconds later when Carl Cano was sent to the penalty box for tripping.
Notre Dame took advantage, as Poshak ripped a slapshot into the back of the net with 8:56 remaining in the second for a 2-1 advantage.
“In a game with two good teams, you’re not going to see many penalties called (three in the game),” said McCracken. “When we went bang-bang as we did, it flipped the momentum quickly in our favor. Brendan was a dominant player tonight. He tilted the ice in our direction. On the back end, Michael (McIntee) was stellar as well with two points.”
The Pirates saw one power play down the stretch of the second but couldn’t muster anything past Roberts.
Midway through the final period, the Tritons took a two-goal advantage when McIntee found the open net off a nice assist from Hunter Bill.
Down two goals late, Bay Port was given a gift when Joe Gerbitz went to the box for hooking.
The Pirates had multiple chances on the power play but couldn’t capitalize.
With about a minute remaining, Bay Port kept the puck in the Notre Dame zone at even strength.
Samuel Lyons went top-shelf on Roberts to cut the margin to 3-2.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Pirates pulled Niemi and added an extra skater.
Tyler Brady got one last look for Bay Port with eight seconds left, but Roberts easily made the save.
“This time of year, when you’re in the final four, it’s a one-game situation,” McCracken said. “We’ll be ready for whoever comes our way.”
The four state teams will be reseeded for tournament play, with the No. 1 and 2 seeds hosting a state semifinal game Thursday, Feb. 18.
The winner will advance to the state title game Saturday, Feb. 20, at the South Wood County Rink in Wisconsin Rapids.
Bay Port: 1, 0, 1 — 2
Notre Dame: 0, 2, 1 — 3