Near the point, Wildcat senior defenseman Eddie Patchen readies to fire a shot. Patchen’s two goals in the game propelled the Cats to a 5-2 win, completing the season series sweep over the Millard South Patriots. “It’s always nice to be able to sweep a team in a season, no matter who they are,” Patchen said. “Communicating, passing, and practicing led to results on the powerplay. It just helps us stay motivated and boosts our momentum.”
Photo courtesy of Whittaker Media
Near the point, Wildcat senior defenseman Eddie Patchen readies to fire a shot. Patchen’s two goals in the game propelled the Cats to a 5-2 win, completing the season series sweep over the Millard South Patriots. “It’s always nice to be able to sweep a team in a season, no matter who they are,” Patchen said. “Communicating, passing, and practicing led to results on the powerplay. It just helps us stay motivated and boosts our momentum.” Photo courtesy of Whittaker Media
Sam Whittaker

Cats claim Q

Hockey team dominates rival and clinches third seed in playoffs

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, the 15-3-7 Millard West hockey team faced off against the 8-14-2 rival Millard South Patriots in their final game of the regular season at Baxter Arena.

In the previous meeting on Jan. 6, the Wildcats dominated due to efficiency on the powerplay with three goals in the final frame en route to the 4-0 shutout win despite being without senior goaltender Seamus Bygrave. 

Out of the gate, Millard West would strike just 33 seconds in. Sophomore defenseman Gavin Spencer received the puck after a wrap-around attempt from behind the net found his stick at the point. Spencer wired his wrist shot through traffic to beat the South netminder on the glove side putting the Cats up 1-0.

“Reece and Cole did a good job of getting and keeping the puck in their zone,” Spencer said. “It just popped out in front of me and they didn’t pressure me so I put it low glove.”

Following the early strike, Millard West’s defense on both ends would shine. The Wildcats would take control of the puck for long stretches of time due to great stick checks and an even better forecheck by all of the Wildcats. Such pressure allowed for easy steals and stretch passes out of the defensive end up to streaking offensive players that led the Cats to amass 11 shots in the first period on top of a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

In the second period, the Wildcat defense continued to stand their ground for a large part of the early stages until a failed attempt to keep the puck in the offensive end was turned over at the top left of the blue line. Patriot senior Zach Wesch would swipe the puck and blow past the Millard West defenders to face Bygrave on a breakaway. With a quick shift from his backhand to forehand, the stick of Wesch shifted around the right leg pad of Bygrave to even the score at 1-1 with a little over six minutes left in the period.

The rest of the second would fly by with few stoppages and quick play with a plentiful amount of shots from both sides with the score knotted at one.

“I was confident that we would win,” Bygrave said. “Everybody was playing well and getting good opportunities, it was only a matter of time before we were going to score. We continued to fight for scoring opportunities and eventually found the back of the net.”

After an exceptional penalty kill by Millard West to start the third period, the offensive momentum would shift. Around three minutes into the period, a faceoff to the left of Bygrave resulted in a bouncing puck that landed right on Wesch’s blade. With an instant toe-drag release shot, he beat Bygrave on the glove side just above the right pad to give the Pats a 2-1 lead.

Trailing for the first time in the game, Millard West was granted a golden opportunity to make it level after Patriot junior defenseman Christian Elmborg was sent to the penalty box for a tripping call. After the second powerplay unit struggled, it gave way to the first with Spencer sending a long stretch pass up where Millard West entered the zone with junior forward Nate Marrinan. After a centering attempt and move past a defender, Marrinan sent a pass to the top of the faceoff circle directly onto the tape of Wildcat senior defenseman Eddie Patchen who rifled the puck past the Patriot netminder near the far post to tie the game at two.

Just 46 seconds later, the deadlock was broken. After a defensive zone faceoff win, Millard West junior defenseman Cole Grandgenett found his forward classmate Reece Wilson splitting two defenders for a breakaway. After a patient shot selection with no moves needed, Wilson sniped the puck top right to send the crowd in a frenzy and take back the lead at 3-2.

“I knew from the moment I caught the puck I was going to shoot it,” Wilson said. “It was something we had been working on all last practice and we perfected it to a point. Faceoff win to Eddie, which he then throws it up to Cole and I need to make sure I beat my defender. We all knew that if we wanted to make a run in the playoffs we have to prove what we can do.”

As the period continued, the Patriot defense continued to crumble as senior defenseman and captain Colin Ketterer took an untimely high sticking penalty to put the Cats back on the powerplay. With the clock ticking under two minutes Wilson would sit at the left circle near the wall without a pressing defender. A cross-ice pass banked off the boards to Patchen who struck with a hammering one-time blast past the Patriot netminder in the blink of an eye to make it a 4-2 Millard West lead.

To cap off the contest, Millard West senior forward Josh Weigent would score the fifth and final goal just 12 seconds later. Off the ensuing faceoff and following a battle for the puck in the neutral zone, Weigent’s shot near the blueline bounced past the pad of the Patriot goaltender making the score 5-2 and sealing a season series sweep of their Q Street rivals. 

Finishing the season with an impressive 16-3-7 record, the Wildcats now clinch the third seed within this year’s state tournament where they will face the number fourteen-seeded 2-17-7 Gretna Dragons in the first round. Catch this year’s playoff action on the Wildcat Sports Network

WSN:https://striv.tv/channel/millard-west/ 

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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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