Senior defenseman Eddie Patchen works around a Creighton Prep defender. Although he didn’t tally any points, Patchen was a key contributor in limiting the large number of chances the Jr. Jays had. “We can use this game as a good reference to why we need to take our time,” Patchen said. “We started to rush things even when no one was pressuring them which led to odd-man rushes on Seamus. If we kept a tight d-zone, didn’t chase the puck, and created space for more time on offense, I believe this game could have ended differently.” (Photo courtesy of Whittaker Media)
Senior defenseman Eddie Patchen works around a Creighton Prep defender. Although he didn’t tally any points, Patchen was a key contributor in limiting the large number of chances the Jr. Jays had. “We can use this game as a good reference to why we need to take our time,” Patchen said. “We started to rush things even when no one was pressuring them which led to odd-man rushes on Seamus. If we kept a tight d-zone, didn’t chase the puck, and created space for more time on offense, I believe this game could have ended differently.” (Photo courtesy of Whittaker Media)
Sam Whittaker

Preseason problems

Wildcats offense limited in loss to Jr. Jays

With cooler temperatures fading into the Omaha metro area, Millard West Hockey squared off against Creighton Prep to kick off preseason pool action at Moylan Iceplex on Sunday, Oct. 15.

Both these teams met in last year’s state playoffs and were ranked within the top four in a matchup that went down to the wire. The Jr. Jays took a 2-0 win over the Cats after scoring late in the third period, knocking West into the losers bracket, while Prep went on to lose in the championship game.

With emotions high, and the puck dropped both sides wanted to establish their pace of play. It would take Prep only two minutes as an attempted clear out of the zone from sophomore Chayce Smithhisler bounced straight to a Jr Jay defender who flipped a backhand shot from the point right onto the tape of Jr. Jay junior forward Brody Burchfiel who initially had his shot blocked by Smithhisler’s stick but potted the rebound over the right shoulder of senior goaltender Seamus Bygrave.

“I think we could’ve played a lot better,” senior defenseman Easton Akins said. “We need to work on our forecheck and pushing them inside out. Prep is a good passing team so next time we need to put pressure on them by using the body to take away time and space.”

Nearing the final minute in the first period, a turnover in the Wildcat’s offensive zone fell to a stray Jr. Jay who sprung Creighton Prep senior forward Liam Smithberg who split both Wildcat defenders on a breakaway. The shot from Smithberg under the blocker of Bygrave would squeak through after making a majority of the save to finish the first frame.

It would take Millard West nearly four minutes into the second period to respond. A cross-ice pass from junior defenseman Cole Grandgenett found sophomore forward Blake Palmer in the Wildcat defensive zone. A quick up pass from Palmer found the junior captain Reece Wilson who flipped a shot on net near the point intending for a line change that beat the Prep goaltender. 

“The goal we scored wasn’t really supposed to go in,” Wilson said. “Coach just kept on telling us to get the puck on net and I needed a line change. I think now we know there is a lot for us to prove and knowing what we need to focus on which I think is being more aggressive on the puck and having a strong forecheck against a team that is solid all around.”

With newfound momentum, West wanted to impose their will but was ultimately overpowered by the Jr Jays who seemed to control the neutral zone with ease, gaining several zone entries without pushback. Bygrave would answer every single time, standing on his head denying several dangerous chances as the second period came to a close.

“It all comes down to not giving up so many turnovers and also not letting their forwards easily move past ours in the neutral zone,” Patchen said. “The coaches wanted us to communicate more, pressure them more in the offensive and neutral zone but to just relax by keeping our heads up when making plays or creating chances.”

The final period of play would bring back-and-forth action where both teams needed a goal. Millard West would continue to lay the body but the Jr. Jays were still able to slip through defenders and find seams for great chances. 

Prep would continue to apply offensive zone pressure as the clock wound down. An attempted pass out of the zone was intercepted by junior Prep forward Zack Hill who on a quick turn shifted around the body of Smithhisler and wired his shot far side over the glove of Bygrave to give the Jr. Jays a crucial insurance goal with just over six minutes left in the game.

With little to no time left, Millard West was unable to muster any last chances and fell to Prep with a 3-1 final score. With this being the first of three preseason pool games, the ‘Cats now prepare for Tri-City, and Omaha Metro with the regular season being only a week away.

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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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