In the first game of the season, surprises are anything but uncommon.
Waunakee – in their season opener against Middleton Saturday night – took the visiting Cardinals aback with a blazing display of speed, jumping out to an early 5-0 lead to secure the victory.
“I think we surprised them a little bit about our speed,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Eric Olson. “We’re pretty deep, too… The three lines play a lot, and they’re all real good.”
Will Roe netted the first goal of the season for the Warriors, scoring less than seven minutes into the opening period.
Both teams were hampered by penalties in the final 10 minutes of the first; the Warriors and Cardinals combined for five penalties before the end of the period was out. Both defenses held firm, however, and Waunakee took their 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The opening nine minutes of the second period were when the Warriors truly shocked the Cardinals. Starting with Steven Pasinato’s goal from Danny Reis just 27 seconds after the break, Waunakee found the back of the net four times in the first nine minutes.
Up 2-0, the Warriors got goals by Pasinato again, Mac Reed and Pavel Rettig to take a commanding 5-0 lead midway through the period.
“We’re a team that really moves the puck well…” added Olson. “I just told them, ‘Use your mates, boys. Don’t be playing individually. The puck travels faster from tape to tape than skating.’”
Middleton regrouped, however, netting a pair of scores in as many minutes to close within three goals of the Warriors.
A late goal by Logan Burgard – with just 71 seconds remaining in the period – pushed the Warrior lead back to four goals, and Waunakee carried a 6-2 lead into the third.
Waunakee goalie Hunter Beck gave way to Ben Luebke midway through the period, having saved all 11 shots sent in his direction.
Middleton opened the second intent on ensuring the Warriors wouldn’t be able to cruise to the finish line. The Cardinals found the back of the net twice within the period’s first five minutes, cutting Waunakee’s lead to just two goals.
Increasingly physical play on both ends resulted in a handful more penalties before Isaac Net fought his way through contact to score the clincher for the Warriors with 2:36 remaining.
“They’re a physical team; it got pretty physical there for a while,” Olson said. “When people start being physical with you, I told the boys the only way you can retaliate is to put it in the back of the net. Tickle the twine and put it in the back of the net; that’s the best way to retaliate.”
Middleton did find the back of the net one final time – on a power play just before time expired – but the goal was waved off due to a player offside, and Waunakee secured the 7-4 victory in their season opener.
Luebke made a total of 18 saves in relief in the final period and a half of play.
“It was great to play Middleton because we haven’t had them on our schedule for a long time…” Olson added. “It’s a rivalry, and we had a big crowd tonight… “We have a very young team, and I was very proud of our boys.”
Waunakee, now 1-0, will travel to University School of Milwaukee this upcoming Friday for a tournament hosted by the defending state champions.
“We’ve got a tougher schedule than we’ve had for years,” said Olson. “Middleton tonight and then the defending state champion University School of Milwaukee on Friday.”