WIAA state hockey preview: Verona seeded fourth in eight-team boys field
What: The 49th annual WIAA state boys hockey tournament and the 18th annual state girls hockey tournament.
Where: Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison 53713.
When: Boys, Thursday through Saturday; girls, Friday and Saturday.
Tickets: Available at the gate at $8 per session ($5 for children age 13 and younger).
Parking: Available for a daily fee ($7 per car, $21 per bus) at Alliant Energy Center.
On the air/online: Quarterfinal and semifinal games will be streamed live on the WIAA.tv portal of the NFHS Network by subscription only ($9.95/month), with archived streams available for free starting 72 hours after the tournament ends. Championship games will be carried live on State Television Network stations, including WKOW (Ch. 27) in Madison, and streamed live on the State Television Network website.
On the Web: Tournament information, results (including live box scores) and a tournament history archive can be found online at www.wiaawi.org/Sports/BoysHockey.aspx and www.wiaawi.org/Sports/GirlsHockey.aspx
University School of Milwaukee (25-2-0) vs. Onalaska co-op (24-3-0), 10 a.m.
Verona (20-5-2) vs. Eau Claire North (17-9-1), 1:15 p.m.
Wausau West (23-3-1) vs. Waukesha North Co-op (16-8-3), 4 p.m.
Neenah Co-op (22-3-2) vs. Hudson (16-10-1), 6:15 p.m.
Thursday’s early winners meet, 4 p.m.
Thursday’s late winners meet, 6:15 p.m.
Semifinal winners meet, 2:15 p.m.
Appleton Xavier co-op (22-4-0) vs. Sun Prairie co-op (14-7-3), 10 a.m.
Schofield D.C. Everest co-op (20-6-0) vs. Hudson (15-9-2), 12:15 p.m.
Semifinal winners meet, 12:10 p.m.
Boys team capsules
University School of Milwaukee (25-2-0) earned the No. 1 seeding and was ranked No. 2 in the final WisconsinPrepHockey.net coaches’ poll. Coach Jason Woods’ Wildcats earned their 12th overall state trip by winning their last eight games. Their only losses came in overtime to Green Bay Notre Dame and against top-ranked Eagle River Northland Pines. University School went 5-0 in the regular season against the other state qualifiers, including a 6-1 win over Onalaska co-op. The program won state titles in 2006 and 2010. The Wildcats average 6.4 goals per game and allows 1.3, with goaltender duties shared by senior Frank Fee (.912 save percentage) and junior Patrick Kelly (.923 percentage). Junior forward Tyler Herzberg leads the team with 77 points (35 goals, 42 assists), and senior forward Robby Newton has 73 (25 goals, 48 assists).
Onalaska co-op (24-3-0) earned the No. 8 seeding after beating Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells, 6-0, in a sectional final. The eighth-ranked co-op, which also includes La Crosse Central and Logan, is at state for the first time as a co-op; on its own, Onalaska made four state trips, finishing second in 2014. The Hilltoppers had a 10-game winning streak snapped by University School in the regular-season finale, but beat its three tournament foes by a combined 24-1. C.J. Lass, a junior forward, has 26 goals and 28 assists for a team-best 56 points. Senior goalie Jack Weber allows 1.46 goals per game at a .915 save percentage.
Verona (20-5-2), ranked sixth, returns to state after falling in a semifinal last year. Coach Joel Marshall’s Wildcats won the state title in 2014 and took second in 2013. Verona closed the season losing five of its last 12 games, and has lost twice to Wausau West and tied Waukesha North co-op during the regular season, but took a 5-3 win over Sun Prairie in the sectional final. Junior forward Mack Keryluk leads the Wildcats with 40 goals and 29 assists for 79 points, and junior Cale Rufenacht has 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 points. Goaltender Kaden Grant, a sophomore, has stepped up with a .917 save percentage and has allowed 2.36 goals per game.
Eau Claire North (17-9-1) beat Hayward, 3-2 in two overtimes, to earn its first state berth since 2006. Coach Ryan Parker’s ninth-ranked Huskies lost three of their last four regular-season games before rebounding in the postseason. Senior Sam Stange led the team through the regular season with 31 goals and 36 assists for 67 points, and junior forward Zach Urdahl had 40 goals and 21 assists for 61 points. Senior goalie Tyler Schreiter has allowed 3.3 goals per game with a .888 save percentage.
Third-ranked Wausau West (23-3-1) storms into state with a string of 10 consecutive victories, including an 8-6 win over Stevens Point in the sectional final. Coach Brian Brandt’s Warriors went 4-0-1 against fellow state qualifiers this year. Junior forward Cade Lemmer leads West with 30 goals and 37 assists for 67 points, and freshman goaltender Adam Prokop has a .916 save percentage with a 1.78 goals-against average.
Waukesha North co-op (16-8-3) faded from mention in the state rankings after closing the regular season with a 5-5-1 streak, but went on a 21-2 scoring binge in three playoff wins, including a 5-2 win over Milwaukee Marquette in the sectional final. Coach Raja Aylsworth’s Wings went 1-3-1 against the state field this year. Junior forward Garrett Wilderman closed the regular season with 13 goals and 14 assists for a team-high 27 points. Senior goalie Garrett Larsen has a .935 save percentage and allowed 2.10 goals per game.
The seventh-ranked Neenah co-op (22-3-2) shut out Green Bay Notre Dame, 4-0, in its sectional final. Co-coach Mike Elkin and Jeff Lindemann have led the Rockets to a 12-game winning streak entering state, with six shutouts during the run (including all three postseason games). Through 25 games, senior forward Dillon Fox led the Rockets with 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points. Junior goalie Jake Mork has a .926 save percentage and has given up 1.51 goals per game.
Defending champion Hudson (16-10-1) earned honorable mention in the last state rankings, but earned a fourth consecutive state trip with a 2-1 victory over fourth-ranked Superior in double overtime. Coach Brooks Lockwood’s Raiders are seeking their fourth state title overall. Hudson went 4-2-1 against Minnesota competition. Senior forward Cole Danielson returns after closing the regular season with 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points. Senior goalie Alex Cohen has allowed 1.93 goals per game with a .897 save percentage.
Girls team capsules
The Sun Prairie co-op, known as the Cap City Cougars, took a 5-4 overtime victory over the Onalaska co-op to advance to state for the third consecutive year. The co-op is open to girls from De Forest, Madison East, Madison La Follette, Sun Prairie and Waunakee. Last year, coach Jeff Thornton’s Cougars lost to Eau Claire North, 3-1, in last year’s final. This year’s team, runner-up in the Badger Conference, lost two of its last three regular-season games to snap a five-game winning streak, and earlier dropped a 7-0 loss to semifinal opponent Appleton Xavier co-op. In statistics through 22 games, junior forward Zephryn Jager (La Follette) led the team with 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points. Her sister, senior Jenna Jager, splits time with freshman Taylor Knox in goal. Jager has a .891 save percentage and 2.19 goals-allowed average; Knox’s numbers are .893 and 2.15.
Appleton Xavier co-op (22-4-0) was ranked second in the final coaches’ poll, but beat top-ranked Beaver Dam co-op, 5-2, in a sectional final to earn the No. 1 seeding and the program’s first-ever state berth. Through 23 games, coach Jeff Fox’s Fox Cities Stars — an amalgamation open to players from got 16 schools — have gotten 32 goals and 25 assists (57 points) from junior forward Maddy Jablonski and 28 goals and 24 assists (52 points) from junior forward Annika Horman. Junior goaltender Hattie Berndt has allowed 2.14 goals per game with a .863 save percentage.
The third-ranked Schofield D.C. Everest co-op (20-6-0), known as the Central Wisconsin Storm, beat Marshfield co-op in a sectional final, 2-1. Coach Peter Susen’s team takes a six-game winning streak to its third straight state trip, including a championship in 2017. The Storm went 2-1 against the other state qualifiers during the regular season. Junior forward Eden Gruber led the Storm through 23 games with 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points, and junior goalie Sydney Weiland had a .913 save percentage and 1.51 goals-against average.
Seventh-ranked Hudson (15-9-2) earned its first state trip since 2006 with a 3-1 win over the defending state champion Eau Claire North co-op in a sectional final. Coach Mark Szypura’s Raiders take a five-game winning streak to state, dating back to a 4-1 loss to the D.C. Everest co-op on Feb. 8. Through 23 games, senior forward Sydney Hendricks led the Raiders with 23 goals and 13 assists (36 points), and junior goaltender Alayna Kunshier had a .914 save percentage and 1.36 goals-against average.
— Art Kabelowsky