A courageous third-period comeback try fell just a little short for the Waukesha Wings co-op boys hockey team Saturday, March 4.
After falling behind No. 1-ranked Hudson by a 2-0 score just 2:33 into the second period, thanks to a pair of power play goals, things did not look encouraging for the No. 3-ranked Wings in the program's first state-championship game.
But Waukesha scored a power-play goal of its own with 5:14 to go in the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1 and then put a ton of pressure on the Raiders in the final period but just couldn't tie the game.
The Wings had two power plays in the final period but couldn't convert and then had several solid shots on goal in the final 4 minutes but failed to connect. The loss ended Waukesha's 12-game win streak, though the Wings still came home with the silver trophy.
"We would have liked to have tied the game in the third period and sent it to overtime," said 10th-year Waukesha coach Raja Aylsworth. "Hudson is a very good defensive team, and they limited our chances. But our kids really battled. We had some chances and the kids gave us everything they had the entire game, especially in the third period. We just came up a little short."
By making the state championship game, the Wings (26-4) became just the second Waukesha County team and third team from southeastern Wisconsin to make the title game. Arrowhead was first in 2009 and second in 2005, and University School of Milwaukee won the crown in 2006.
Waukesha, playing in the state tournament for the second time in team history and second straight year, also set a school record with its 26 wins.
"We had a very successful season," said Aylsworth, who has coached the Wings the last 10 years and has led the team to an overall mark of 170-76-5. "We played good hockey right from the start. It would have been nice to have finished it off with a win, but I'm proud of these guys. We lost to a very good hockey team."
In the title game, all three goals came on power plays. Hudson's George Nuutinen scored with 5:21 to go in the first period, and then the Raiders made it 2-0 with 14:27 to go in the second stanza when Chase Blackmun connected.
Hudson, state champs in 2001 and 2004, seemed in complete control at that point, but then the Wings took advantage of a power-play situation late in the period and suddenly turned the game around.
After failing to convert the power play with 9:04 remaining in the second period, Hudson was hit with another penalty with 6:17 to go. This time, it took Waukesha only 63 seconds to convert, as Wisconsin Hockey Player of the Year Ian Malcolmson made a brilliant pass to a wide-open Wyatt Wilderman in front of the net. He beat Hudson goalie Anthony Howard for an easy score.
Thanks to some solid defense by the Wings, led by junior Kevin Broda, the momentum turned in Waukesha's favor. The Wings had two power-play chances in the final period and two other solid scoring chances but just couldn't connect.
Hudson finished the season at 27-2-1.
Wings goalie Garrett Larsen, only a sophomore, capped off a big year by saving 16 of 18 shots in the title game.
Waukesha outshot Hudson by a 20-18 margin.
Wings defeat Arrowhead
On Thursday, March 2, Waukesha topped longtime rival Arrowhead in the opening round of the state tournament by a 2-1 score in overtime.
The game-winner came from an unlikely source when Benjamin Sorge beat Arrowhead goalie Peter Genatempo with 3:51 left in the overtime. It was just the third goal of the season for the sophomore forward.
Neither team scored in the first period, and the Wings took a 1-0 with 11:50 to go in the second period when Chad Larsen scored on the power play with 18 seconds remaining in the penalty. Malcolmson and Broda assisted on that goal.
Arrowhead finally scored with 7:18 to play when Caleb Beversdorf got credit for the goal after a huge scrum in front of the net. The goal was reviewed for about 90 seconds before getting confirmed.
That set up the overtime and the eventual game-winning goal by Sorge. The Wilderman brothers, Garrett and Wyatt, assisted on that score.
"We've been successful throughout the year in those close game situations," Aylsworth said. "But it could have gone either way. Arrowhead is a heck of a team. We were fortunate enough to get a good look in overtime and bury it for the win."
The Waukesha defense held Arrowhead, the highest scoring team in the state, to just one goal in each of the two games they played them this season. Waukesha won the first meeting by a 3-1 margin.
OT win vs. Sun Prairie
On March 3, the Wings let a seemingly safe 4-1 lead slip away as Sun Prairie rallied for the final three goals in regulation in the last 9 minutes and forced a second-straight overtime for the Wings. For the second straight day, the OT was kind.
Garrett Wilderman ended the game just under 7 minutes into the extra session when he connected. Wyatt made the game-winning assist.
Waukesha trailed 1-0 after one period and then took a 3-1 edge after two periods. The Wings got goals from Chad Larsen, Ben Sheppard and Garrett Wilderman in that surge. When Malcolmson scored just 4:40 into the third period, the Wings led, 4-1.
Waukesha outshot Sun Prairie (18-9-1) by a 36-25 margin.