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The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

Working off the rust

Hockey team overpowers Elkhorn in preseason scrimmage
Sam Whittaker
Senior goaltender Seamus Bygrave denies a shot with his left pad. The senior netminder had 24 saves en route to the Wildcat’s dismantling of Elkhorn in a 6-1 victory. “I’m excited for the new season,” Bygrave said. “It’s my 11th year playing, so I definitely want to make the best of it. I’m definitely optimistic about this year.”

Coming off a tough quarter finals playoff loss, Millard West kicked off the new season matching up against Elkhorn United on Thursday, Sept. 21 in a preseason scrimmage tilt at Moylan Iceplex. The Wildcats are coming into the year with seven seniors after only losing one the previous year while gaining two new additional forwards. 

These two squads met last year in a do-or-die playoff elimination game, where Millard West prevailed in the shootout in large part to a three-point (2G-1A) performance by then-captain and current junior Reece Wilson alongside the goaltending excellence of senior Seamus Bygrave who made 19 saves for the win.

Out of the gate, both sides started aggressively having back-and-forth possessions that grew in length and had both goaltenders tested early. Bygrave was on his game early, making several key stops that would translate into offense for the Wildcats. A quick up pass from the West defenders sprung a streaking  Wilson up the ice. Wilson would take a swift step, cutting around the outside of his man and roofed the puck short side giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead early.

“I’m basically just trying to get back into the habit and getting back into shape for hockey season,” Wilson said. “I’m preparing for games down the road and getting to learn the new players. I think this season is going to be really solid. I think we have a great team and a chance to do great things. We got a great goalie in net holding us down and I just think if we can get a couple more goals scored, this team is going to be hard to beat.”

Only a few minutes later, the Wildcats would double their lead. A stretch pass from the neutral zone found the stick of senior Kerek Heithier who ripped a bullet from the top of the circles through the five-hole of the Elkhorn goaltender.

Elkhorn would then respond as a faceoff win led to a quick pass back to the centerman who wired a snapshot from the top of the right circle that beat Bygrave over the blocker and cut the lead in half.

“I will only get better this year,” Heithier said. “I might score more goals this year. I don’t let a big lead take me off defending because I can focus and tell myself we can beat this team.”

It would take almost a whole five minutes to see the next goal as the Wildcats had a quick breakout setting up a two-on-one for juniors Sam Sharp and Wilson that was denied by a diving glove save. As they crashed the net, senior Eddie Patchen found the loose puck pitching it over to Sharp, then Wilson who potted the rebound bulking the lead back up to two.

Elkhorn being down 3-1 started to turn up the physicality but the Wildcats matched their efforts. Even in several long stretches of being pinned in the defensive zone, the goaltending excellence of Bygrave continued. 

“When it comes to preseason, my main goal is just to find my game again,” Bygrave said. “I haven’t been on the ice much recently, so it was really nice to be able to have that game and feel good about it. I truly do believe we can win it all this year if everybody plays right.”

Millard West would eventually get a line change and start the attack as junior forward Nate Marrinan would beat his man to the outside, but sky the shot just above the crossbar. Marrinan would stick with it though, and use his excellent patience to cut back in front of the net and beat the Elkhorn netminder giving the Wildcats a 4-1 lead.

Soon after, junior defenseman Cole Grangenett would be sent to the box on an interference call giving Elkhorn their first and only powerplay of the night. The Wildcat penalty killers would deny the United powerplay in quick time letting little to no shots reach the net.

As the night went on, Millard West didn’t let up as Marrinan would take another faceoff directly to the net and snipe another beautiful goal into the top right corner, which was followed up minutes later by Wilson netting his third goal of the night, completing the hattrick and giving the Wildcats a commanding 6-1 victory over the United.

The Cats get the next two to three weeks to prepare for preseason pool action as they await their next opponent and the release of the 2023-24 regular season schedule

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About the Contributor
Sam Whittaker, Staff Reporter
Also known as the voice of Millard West Hockey, Sam is a junior at Millard West beginning his first full year on the Catalyst Staff. He spent the summer working alongside Logan Moseley for the Corn Belt League gaining valuable broadcasting experience. In his free time, Sam cheers on the Tennessee Volunteers and Nashville Predators whenever he isn’t broadcasting or photographing Millard West sports.

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