They had a phenomenal season and made it all the way to the semifinal game of the WIAA Division I Boys Hockey State Tournament, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Tritons of Green Bay Notre Dame. The Tritons rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Wildcats 5–3 on Friday, March 6 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Notre Dame entered the match as the Division 1 tournament’s top seed and ranked as number one in the state coach’s poll. USM, the defending state champions, was seeded fourth in the tournament.
Both goaltenders played well and gave their teammates impetus throughout the game. Patrick Kelly ’20, USM’s netminder, stopped 24 of Notre Dame’s 29 shots. Notre Dame’s goalie, Bo Buckley, made 18 saves in the game.
The Wildcats leaped to the lead with two unanswered goals in the first period. Noah Eghbali ’21 scored them both. Just 5:03 into the game, Eghbali snared an errant Triton pass in the Notre Dame slot and swiftly fired the puck past Buckley.
Eghbali stunned the Tritons with another goal several minutes later. As the Tritons began a clearing play, Tyler Herzberg ’20 forechecked a defenseman, forcing him to cough up the puck. Herberg then buzzed a pass out front to Eghbali. Eghbali whipped the puck past Buckley at 9:41.
The Tritons seemed to surface in the second period. They outshot the Wildcats 11-6 in the period, but they weren’t able to score until 12:20.
Corbin Skinner finally put Notre Dame on the scoreboard. He intercepted a Wildcat clearing pass along the right boards near the USM blue line. He skated into the slot and gunned a shot past Kelly to give the Tritons new life. The goal changed the game’s momentum. Notre Dame scored three straight goals in the third period and took command of the game.
Notre Dame took a 25-1-1 record into the Division 1 State Tournament’s Final against Verona, but it wasn’t enough. Verona won the state tournament 2–1 in overtime.
The Wildcats ended their reign as state champions with a record that deserves to be part of USM’s long hockey history, finishing the season at 20-7-1.