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Top-ranked NDA remains undefeated

By Greg Bates
ASHWAUBENON – Notre Dame Academy boys’ hockey erased any doubt which is the best Division 1 team in the state.
The top-ranked Tritons — fresh off victories over Verona and Madison Edgewood — wasted little time in flexing their muscles against second-ranked Chippewa Falls.
Notre Dame tallied three goals in the first nine minutes of their game en route to a 5-2 victory on Friday night in the final game of the NDA Hockey Showcase at the Cornerstone Community Center.
“We just wanted to start fast and we started fast in the first period with three in the first (nine minutes), put them back on their heels a little bit,” Notre Dame coach Cory McCracken said. “Our speed, our skills showed tonight in the right situations, then it became an even game in the second period. They pushed, and obviously good teams push. We found a way to push back.”
Tritons senior captain Michael McIntee said the team followed the keys set forth by their coach.
“They were shift length, compete level and stick to our habits,” McIntee said. “We just stuck with that, came out with a lot of energy and we buried them real quick and they lost life fast.”
Notre Dame, which is the only remaining undefeated team in the state at 12-0, had all five of its goals scored by different players. In fact, five players also tallied assists, meaning 10 of the 19 skaters on the team scored points in the win.
“Really happy with our depth, and I think for us if we build our game from our back end out, our back end was pretty good tonight,” McCracken said. “Our D group in general, all six of them, played a really nice game tonight.”
Added McIntee: “I’ve never been on a team, a high school team, that’s been even close to this good — even my freshman year team. The depth is incredible and it’s a good feeling to know that we have a lot of reliability within our lines.”
Notre Dame got its first goal of the game by senior Brenden Gruber, who scored on the power play unassisted at 3:53 of the opening period.
With helpers from Kade McCarron and Drew Schock, Keegan McCarron lit the lamp at 7:40. Just 1 minute 18 seconds later, McIntee scored with assists getting credited to Hunter Bill and Nathan Antti to make it 3-0.
“We played a connected team game and that’s the first time in this week of tournament games for us that we played a connected team game where we moved the puck well, we had close support and we had guys in the right spots on routes that helped us get to where we needed to be,” McCracken said.
“The biggest thing for me in the first 10 minutes was we won every loose puck race, we got inside position on guys and we dictated what happened in the game the first 10 minutes, which is good.”
Notre Dame’s lead ballooned to 4-0 and James Flanigan scored on an assist from Antti on the power play at 4:15 of the second period.
Chippewa Falls (8-2) got a power play goal from Mason Johnson at 5:40 into the second.
The Cardinals cut their deficit in half midway through the third when Jackson Hoem scored a beautiful goal on the power play once again.
Notre Dame had an answer as Joseph Coghlin quieted Chippewa Falls’ student section with a goal at 11:19. Flanigan got an assist.
Scoring three victories in three days against three very good teams is going to pay dividends now and later in the season for Notre Dame.
“That’s why we set this showcase up to begin with,” McCracken said. “We bring some of the best teams in the state in and we all get a chance to see each other right around Christmas time, which gives us a benchmark and barometer before we get into the home stretch in January and into the playoffs. Now we’ve seen a Chippewa, we’ve seen a Hudson, we’ve seen Verona. We’ve seen some of the better teams in the state, so we know what we need to work on to be a team that plays a 51-minute game as it gets closer to the end of the year and it just helps us be in games that we’ve got to be competitive in for 51 minutes.”
McIntee said picking up the three wins is a solid statement to the Notre Dame players and also the rest of the hockey programs around the state.
“We’re just proving a point to everyone that we’re here and we’re going to be a good team for anyone and we’re going to be a contender for the state title,” McIntee said. “Our main takeaway is that there’s other competition in the state that could beat us if we don’t show up. I think that was good for the team to see that we need to show up every day.”

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