The final score may have been lopsided, but don’t be deceived; the Waunakee boys’ hockey team was in a fight for their postseason life on Thursday night in their playoff opener.
“Playoff hockey… People don’t want to be done, especially the seniors…” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Eric Olson. “That’s what you run into, especially when you’re a higher-seeded team playing against a lower-seeded team.”
The Warriors ultimately caught fire late, defeating the Bulldogs of Cedarburg 9-2 to advance onto sectionals.
The turning point on the night came late in the second period. Tied at two with time winding down until the second intermission, the third-seeded Warriors were firmly on upset alert. Pavel Rettig had tied the game midway through the period but having never led at any point, the Warriors needed a spark.
With 12 seconds to go until the break, Isaac Nett provided that spark, beating the Cedarburg goalie to put Waunakee up 3-2 heading into the third.
“That was a little jump; that was all we needed to get going,” said Nett. “We knew we could get going the whole game, it was just what would set us off.”
“I knew in the third period, we were going to impose our will on them,” Olson added. “That’s what we did.”
After taking their first lead of the night, Waunakee was eager to strike again once they returned to the ice in the final period.
With just over 10 minutes to play, it was Nett who buried the back-breaker. His goal was the first of six in the final period for the Warriors in an avalanche of scoring to seal the victory. The Warriors got three goals from Steven Pasinato, followed by scores from Drew Christianson and Weston Price to give the game its final score of 9-2.
Though the Warriors came into the game as the higher seed, it was Cedarburg who imposed their will early.
“It was a very physical game; I got hit a couple times,” Nett said. “I wasn’t expecting the physicality.”
The Bulldogs used their physicality to their advantage; despite being outshot by a wide margin, they were able to pick their spots to gain an early lead. Barely three minutes after the opening puck drop, Cedarburg took a 1-0 lead.
The Warriors answered two minutes later on a goal from Will Roe, but a power-play goal by the Bulldogs kept Waunakee from getting comfortable.
“They didn’t their season to end, and they were playing like they didn’t want their season to end,” added Olson. “That’s how they took it to us.”
The Warriors were held afloat by senior goaltender Hunter Beck, who made a handful of crucial saves while his team trailed.
“Hunter made a couple big saves when they were ahead 2-1,” said Olson. “If they go up 3-1, we’re really gripping our sticks; we would be pushing the sap right out of the lumber if they would have scored that third goal.”
Beck made a total of 18 saves on the night to earn the win in goal.
After surviving a scare Thursday night, Olson suggested his team take a lesson from the intensity their opponent came out with going forward in the postseason.
“You’ve got to give it to Cedarburg; they played hard and didn’t want their season to end,” Olson said. "Going up to Waupun on Tuesday, that’s how we’ve got to play.”
The Warriors will play at Waupun Ice Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with a spot in the sectional final on the line.