Hockey Cards win outright Big 8 title

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton's hockey team clinched the outright Big Eight Conference title last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton hockey coach Steffon Walby is a parent who’s always preached the value of sharing.

In the sports world, though, those rules are tossed out the window.

Middleton had a share of the Big Eight Conference title wrapped up when it hosted Verona last Thursday. The Wildcats could have earned a piece of the crown by upsetting the Cardinals, but Middleton wasn’t in the mood to share.

The Cardinals overcame an early 1-0 deficit and rolled past the Wildcats, 4-1. Middleton finished Big Eight play 12-2, while Verona slipped to 10-4.

“Of course your Mom and Dad always tell you to share and play nice in the sandbox,” Walby said. “However, this one we didn't want to share. We wanted to go ahead and win it outright, which is kind of cool and extra motivation.”

The Cardinals won the league title for a second straight year, which was one of their goals from the moment the season began in November.

“It meant a lot,” said Middleton senior defenseman Davis Bunz. “It was awesome to come out strong and really make a statement of what kind of team we are and what we are capable of accomplishing.”

Verona actually struck first with a goal just 25 seconds into the game. But Middleton evened things up 26 seconds later when Nolan Kouba scored an even strength goal on assists from Colin Butler and Justin Engelkes.

Butler notched a power play goal at 4:01 of the second period that was the eventual game-winner. Jake Livesy and Engelkes assisted on the play.

Casey Harper gave Middleton a 3-1 lead at 15:58 of the second period on assists by Engelkes and Livesy. Middleton then put things away on an even strength goal by Bunz at 14:30 of the third period.

“Of course we’re really excited to have won it two years in a row,” Walby said. “This is one of their goals and they achieved it, so we can check the box on that. It goes to show you how much time and effort they put into the off-season, as well, to become successful.”

Middleton also rolled past Brookfield, 7-0, in a non-conference game last Saturday. The Cardinals finished the regular season with a 21-3 record and set a school record for wins.

Bunz had two goals against Brookfield, while Ross Johnson added two, as well. Butler, Michael Wolfinger and Preston Lewis also added goals.

The Cardinals will now turn their attention to the postseason.

Middleton, the No. 1 seed in its sectional, had a first round bye. The Cardinals will host either eighth-seeded Monona Grove or ninth-seeded Oregon in a regional final Friday at 8 p.m. at Capitol Ice Arena.

If Middleton wins Friday, it would host a sectional semifinal on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The sectional finals are Saturday, Feb. 27 at Sun Prairie Ice Arena at 7 p.m.

“I feel very confident about how our team has been performing lately and how we all have been buying into the same system,” Bunz said. “We’ve really come together as one and I think this was the perfect time to do it.”

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