Hockey Cards clinch share of Big 8 title

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton's hockey team clinched at least a share of its second straight Big Eight title last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Their goal sheet is extremely lengthy.

Sectional titles. A state tournament appearance. Perhaps even a state title when all is said and done.

But the first objective for Middleton’s hockey team is — and always will be — a Big Eight Conference title. And the Cardinals accomplished that last week with a pair of league wins.

The Cardinals defeated Madison La Follette/East, 7-1, last Thursday. Middleton also toppled Madison West, 10-1, last Saturday.

The Cardinals improved to 18-3 overall and 11-2 in the Big Eight. Middleton now has 22 points in the conference standings with one league game remaining against Verona on Feb. 11.

Both Sun Prairie and Verona (8-3 in the league) still could tie Middleton for the conference’s top spot. But those teams would have to win out and Middleton would have to lose its final league game for any sharing to be involved.

“Winning the conference was one of our main goals this year, so it feels good to accomplish that, although winning the title outright is the next step,” Middleton senior forward Griffin Gussell said. “But the second straight title means a lot to us and now we're ready to focus on achieving more of our goals.”

In Middleton’s win over La Follette/East, Justin Engelkes had three goals and an assist. Ross Johnson, Griffin Gussell, Braxton Walby and Colin Butler all added goals, as well, while Nolan Kouba and Casey Harper both had two assists.

David Vodenlich got the win in goal.

Middleton then posted an impressive win over a solid Madison West team (8-11-1, 5-8). The Regents were missing some key players due to injury, but the Cardinals played extremely well.

“It was more of a week of ‘mind over matter,’ ” Cardinals coach Steffon Walby said. “We knew that it wasn’t going to be tough, but we still had to play and continue to use good habits. We played well and got the job done.”

The Cardinals have now gotten the job done for two straight years when it comes to the Big Eight Conference race.

Last season, Middleton finished with 23 points and edged runner-up Madison Memorial (21). Over the next week, the Cardinals would like to make sure they don’t have to share this year’s title either.

“I think since our three-game skid (last month), we've been playing better hockey, and in the postseason we need to continue playing with high energy and come out aggressive for every game,” Gussell said. “Consistency will be a key factor for us as well.”

• On deck: Middleton hosts Monona Grove Thursday at 8 p.m., then has a week off until its final conference game of the season against Verona.

Walby will also attend the postseason seeding meeting Sunday, where the Cardinals stand a good chance of being the No. 1 seed. The top four seeds all earn first round byes, meaning Middleton’s first playoff game would be a regional final on either Feb. 18 or 19.


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