The boys hockey season is still young, but Verona is once again proving it is the team to beat in the Big Eight Conference.
Verona, ranked fourth in Division 1 in the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association Poll, rolled past Big Eight rival Sun Prairie 7-1 on Friday, Dec. 20, at Verona Ice Arena. The victory came on the heels of an 18-0 home rout of Madison La Follette/Madison East on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
Verona (8-1, 6-0 Big Eight) has won six straight games since a 2-1 loss to Milwaukee University on Nov. 30.
Verona 7, Sun Prairie 1
Junior forward Walker Haessig was a player in demand for autographs on youth hockey night after netting a hat trick to power the Wildcats past the Cardinals.
“They are always big games,” he said. “Mentally, I guess maybe I’m a little more prepared for it.”
Verona senior forward Cale Rufenacht had a goal and three assists, and junior defenseman Joshua Osting dished out three assists. Verona outshot Sun Prairie 55-20, as the Cardinals committed 11 penalties.
“We marked this one on the calendar,” Verona coach Joel Marshall said. “It’s always an added little pressure with Sun Prairie.”
The Cardinals’ Davis Hamilton scored two minutes into the contest, but the Wildcats responded with seven straight goals.
“I honestly wasn’t shocked that they scored first,” Rufenacht said. “We knew we had more speed and talent and would prevail in the end. It was just a matter of time.”
Rufenacht tied the game with a shot just outside the right circle at the 6:49 mark of the first period after a turnover by the Cardinals.
“I varied my speed a little bit and got it to my backhand,” Rufenacht said. “I knew there wasn’t much room. I knew if I got it high over the goaltender’s shoulder, he wouldn’t be able to get it with his glove. That was a huge momentum boost. Everyone in the arena lit up after that.”
Verona broke the game open with four goals in the second period, three of them coming on the power play.
“It’s a little added dagger on the opposition,” Marshall said. “It was the tipping of the tides. When we score, we score in bunches. It’s blood in the water. The sharks are swimming and they get excited, smell that and want more.”
Junior defenseman Nathan Jurrens scored on the power play off assists from Rufenacht and junior forward Leo Renlund 59 seconds into the second period to give Verona a 2-1 lead. Less than two minutes later, Haessig scored off passes from Rufenacht and Jurrens. Sophomore defenseman Troy Tollefson then punched in a goal off assists by Rufenacht and Haessig to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 4-1 at the 9:47 mark of the second. Senior forward Parker Ploc scored off a pass from Osting to close the period..
Haessig completed his hat trick with two power-play goals in the third period.
Verona junior goaltender Kaden Grant had 19 saves.
Verona 18, Madison La Follette/East 0
Renlund and freshman forward Reece Cordray for the Wildcats, who scored five goals in the first period and six goals in the second.
Ploc opened the scoring with a power-play goal off assists from senior defenseman Keegan Lindell and sophomore forward Anthony Heinrichs at the 14:19 mark. Five minutes later, freshman forward Conrad Moline scored off passes from Cordray and junior defenseman Calvin Moioffer.
Heinrichs scored two goals and had two assists, and Moline added two goals. Haessig, Ploc and senior forwards Drew Yeager and Derek Iszczyszyn each scored a goal and dished out three assists.
Keegan Lindell and sophomore defenseman Carson Lindell added two assists. The Wildcats also got goals from Rufenacht, Osting and Ryan Ritter.