Hockey Cards rally past Verona

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton's hockey team notched a huge win over Verona last Saturday./File photo

Dreamlike. Fantastic. Unreal.

This is how Colin Butler and the rest of Middleton’s hockey team felt last Saturday night.

Butler scored arguably the Cardinals’ biggest goal of the year. The sophomore forward corralled a rebound and beat Verona goalie Nathan Cleghorn at 5:10 in overtime to lift Middleton to a wild 3-2 win over the host Wildcats.

Middleton improved to 13-3-1 with the dramatic win. The Cardinals also improved to 10-1 in the Big Eight Conference and hold a two-game lead over Madison Memorial (8-3, 13-5) with three games remaining.

“We have had some other big games and big goals this year, but this one was really surreal,” Butler said. “And it was an amazing feeling to get a huge win with those guys.

“We were working it really well in their zone, and I just planted myself in front of the net to hopefully get a rebound off a shot from the point. We had some great net front pressure and luckily the puck just ended up on my stick and in the back of the net. Everyone on the ice contributed to it.”

Butler has made enormous contributions in this, his first year on varsity.

Butler leads Middleton in goals with 13. He’s also tops in points (19) and points per game (1.12).

But nothing compared to Saturday night, when his game-winning goal lifted the Cardinals past their biggest league rival and the defending state champion Wildcats.

“It truly is nice to see Colin leading our team in scoring,” Middleton coach Steffon Walby said. “But as the hockey gods always say, hard work gets rewarded in a team game. Colin might be the statistical leader, but he would even agree that he wouldn't be where he is without his other teammates.”

Middleton also wouldn't have wound up victorious if it wasn’t for the heroics of sophomore defenseman Zach Heidel.

Verona led, 2-1, late in the contest. Freshman forward Justin Engelkes tried throwing the puck in front three times from behind the net.

Finally, Engelkes succeeded and Heidel was waiting. Heidel beat Cleghorn with just six seconds left in the game to even things, 2-2, and force overtime.

“Originally we had taken a timeout to set up a face-off play,” Walby said. “And of course that didn’t go as planned. All in all, I guess it worked. I think it was a very big goal for our team this season.”

Butler agreed.

“Zach’s goal was huge,” Butler said. “Props to Zach for getting one of the biggest goals of the season. He's played great all year we couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Middleton’s effort throughout left the entire team quite proud.

Butler scored at 14:32 of the first period on assists from junior defensemen Braxton Walby and Davis Bunz to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Verona got the equalizer at 5:58 of the second period. The Wildcats then took a 2-1 lead at 15:12 of the third period and appeared to have the Cardinals on the ropes.

“After Verona scored without much time left, I was really impressed with our guys for not getting down on ourselves and not letting it get to us,” Butler said. “We just came back out even harder.”

They sure did.

First Heidel knotted things, 2-2, on assists from Engelkes and junior forward Casey Harper. Butler’s game-winner was then assisted by Harper and Bunz.

Senior goalie Max McConnell picked up the win after notching 26 saves.

The win was huge for Middleton on several fronts.

Not only did the Cardinals stay atop the conference, but it marked the first time any of them had ever won in Verona.

“We tried not to let it get into our heads how big of a game this was, and we kept our emotions in check,” Butler said. “But we knew that it was a huge step toward winning conference. It was such an amazing feeling to get the win with such a tight group of guys, and it couldn't have been done without contributions from each and every one of us.”

The win wrapped up a tough week in which the Cardinals had mid-term exams, then aced a huge test on the ice.

Now, Middleton is closing in on its first Big Eight title since the 2010-’11 season.

“The boys really stepped up,” Steffon Walby said. “They had a tough week in the classroom.
“The boys are really buying in to each other and helping each other succeed. That’s what I find really to be the most fun is watching these young man grow.”

• On deck: Middleton hosts Madison La Follette/East Tuesday at 8 p.m.. The Cardinals then host Beloit Memorial Thursday at 8 p.m. and Madison Edgewood Saturday at 8 p.m.

• Bunz a Badger: Former Middleton High School standout Jake Bunz has joined the University of Wisconsin men's hockey program.

Bunz, a defenseman, spent a season and a half with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. Bunz had one goal and six points in 24 games with Chicago this season after posting three goals and seven points in 41 games for Chicago in 2013-’14.

Bunz was a 2013 first-team all-state selection, and recorded two goals and eight points in 31 games for Team Wisconsin that same year. Bunz also posted 14 goals and 31 points in 23 games as a junior to earn honorable mention all-state honors.

“Jake has real good mobility as a defenseman,” Wisconsin hockey coach Mike Eaves said. “He's a good skater who moves well laterally. He's sees the ice well and has good skill. 
“For him to be a bonafide college player he’s going to have to learn our systems and learn how to play away from the puck.”

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