Hockey Cards stay red hot

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Justin Engelkes and Middleton’s hockey team won a pair of games last week./Times-Tribune photo by Rob Reischel

The flu bug hit Middleton’s hockey team hard last week.

But you wouldn’t have known it watching the Cardinals on the ice. In fact, it was Middleton that left its foes feeling ill.

The Cardinals defeated host Janesville, 5-1, last Tuesday. Middleton then blanked Beloit Memorial, 5-0, last Saturday.

The Cardinals pushed their win streak to three games and improved to 12-3-1 on the season. Middleton is also 9-1 in the Big Eight Conference and holds a two-game lead over second place Madison Memorial (7-3, 12-5).

“I am really proud of our ability to fight adversity,” said Middleton first year coach Steffon Walby. “We have been shorthanded and guys have played through injuries, sickness and soreness. I keep preaching to the guys to be humble, and to not look past the next task at hand.”

The Cardinals didn't look past either opponent last week. And the result was a pair of convincing Cardinals’ victories.

“The best thing I can say about last week is ‘Wow!’ ” Walby said. “I would have never guessed going into Rock County twice, and coming out with two wins. Historically those are two tough barns to play in.”

Middleton scored three goals in the first 10 minutes against Janesville and built a 5-0 lead through two periods.

Davis Bunz had an even strength goal on an assist from Nikko Miller at 9:13 of the first period. Just 41 seconds later, Ross Johnson scored on assists from Preston Lewis and Miller.

Eddy Matush then scored just eight seconds later giving the Cardinals three goals in a remarkable 49 seconds.

Justin Engelkes scored at the 9:30 mark of the second period to make it 4-0. And Nolan Kouba scored at 15:14 to make it 5-0.

Max McConnell earned the win in net for the Cardinals.

“We got out to a quick lead and then played really solid team defense,” Walby said. “I thought our penalty kill was really solid and I thought that we really worked hard as a team.”

Things were a little tougher for Middleton at Beloit, which has a standout goalie in Brennan Bescup.

Kouba had a goal at 3:38 of the first period and Johnson scored midway through the second period to make it 2-0.

Middleton finally got rolling and pulled away in the third period.

First, Daylon Reifsteck scored at 3:29 on an assist from Jordan Hylbert. Colin Butler had a goal at 9:32 on a feed from Engelkes. And Zach Heidel finished off the Purple Knights on an assist from Heidel at 14:22.

McConnell again shined in goal, shutting out the host Purple Knights.

“We did end up with a quick lead, however (Beloit’s) goaltender played really well and kept them in the game,” Walby said. “I thought the score was not indicative of how well Beloit played us. That team really works hard and keeps you in check.”

The two wins have Middleton in control of the league race. But Walby is warning his team there’s a lot of season left.

“There is a lot of work to do before the conference title will be awarded to somebody,” Walby said. “We will continue to treat it as our ‘brass ring,’ simply meaning we will always be reaching for it.

“If it happens then all the credit goes to the MHS players. They are the ones who have worked hard. Until then we will work hard on and off the ice, especially in the classroom and community.”

• On deck: Middleton travels to defending state champion Verona Saturday at 7 p.m.

“This week will be a huge test for us,” Walby said. “The kids have finals as well as practice.

“We know that Verona is waiting for us on Saturday. Should be fun! They are really playing well.”

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