Rarely in life do things live up to expectations the way Friday’s nonconference showdown between two of the state’s top boys hockey team programs did.
Third-ranked Verona and fourth-ranked Green Bay Notre Dame engaged in a fast-paced slugfest that sent fans cheering and jeering on every check and nearly 70 shots on goal. A rematch of last year’s WIAA state quarterfinal, the game ended 3-3 after the host Wildcats scored with 27 seconds left.
“I saw the puck go into the net, and the student section erupted,” said sophomore forward Walker Haessig, who scored the tying goal. “You just kind of lose feeling at that moment.”
It was the second tie of the season for both Verona (3-0-2) and Notre Dame (2-0-2).
Notre Dame, which scored three of the game’s four power-play goals, led by two goals with four minutes remaining.
The Wildcats began their comeback with a power-play goal by junior forward Cale Rufenacht off a rebound in front.
Verona then called timeout with :34.4 remaining and pulled sophomore goaltender Kaden Grant in favor of an extra attacker.
Haessig’s score came off a set play, drawn up on the whiteboard by coach Joel Marshall during the timeout. It was designed to get the puck to the corner off the draw and position Haessig in front of the Triton goal.
“I saw (junior forward) Mack (Keryluk) get the puck in the corner, and I just found a spot out front,” Haessig said. “The puck trickled through, and I just pounded it home.”
Twenty seven seconds from walking out of the Verona Ice Arena with a victory, Notre Dame coach Cory McCracken said his team has to learn to defend better in tight games.
“We have five very capable guys on the ice in that situation,” he said. ”You have to give credit to Verona; they got hungry, and they got pucks and bodies to the front of the net.”
Early on, everything was going right for Notre Dame as junior Josh DeLange scored two power-goals, each of which gave the visitors a one-goal lead.
DeLange opened the scoring 8:45 into the first period. His second goal came nine-and-a-half minutes into the third period and put the Tritons ahead 2-1 after a late second-period goal by Verona senior defenseman Kade Binger.
Notre Dame, which was 3-of-5 on the power play, scored its final goal with a third power-play goal one-and-a-half minutes after DeLange’s goal. This time, Sawyer Scholl was the beneficiary.
“Notre Dame is a great team and very structured,” Verona coach Joel Marshall said. “Five on five, we knew we could hang with them and chip in one or two, but we knew they could give us fits if they got on the power play, and that’s exactly happened.”
McCracken said the Tritons’ success on the power play was all about doing the simple things.
“We made a couple of good reads tonight, and guys finished, which is nice to see,” he said. “It’s early in the season for both teams. I thought there was a lot of loose play in some situations by both teams tonight.”
Perennial state qualifiers on both sides of the bench, there was plenty of speed and skill on both benches.
“It was a good high school hockey game for Nov. 30,” McCracken said. “I think both teams will be hard outs in the playoffs.”
Keryluk, who led the state in scoring through the first week of the season, with 11 goals and 17 points, tallied two assists.
Grant finished with 39 saves, including 18 in the third period and five more in overtime.
Triton junior Bo Buckley weathered an early storm, stopping 11 of his 26 saves in the first period against Verona.