Freshman Goalie Plays Much Bigger for Storm
The WNS Storm beat Kenosha 3-2 behind the intrepid play of Nicolet goalie Sean Leahy.
Who knew high school hockey could be so exciting?
The WNS Storm overcame a late onslaught by the Kenosha Thunder and held on for a 3-2 win at the Kern Center on Monday night.
The WNS Storm is a co-op team with players from Shorewood, Whitefish Bay and Nicolet.
The Storm jumped out to an early lead with a wrist shot from Whitefish Bay freshman Andy Krugler. He was assisted by Bay senior Joe Aiken, who always seems to be around the puck at the right time, and sophomore Drew Kneisel from Shorewood.
There was a lot of intensity in the air, which certainly made Storm head coach Maco Balkovec content — for the moment. It was a game motivated by pride as Kenosha stripped the Storm of a win earlier this season when they enjoyed an early lead and let Kenosha back in the door for the win.
Both teams were physical on Monday and that resulted in a rash of penalties early on. “There are good penalties and not so good penalties,” Balkovec said. “Sometimes you have to establish a tone, let the other team know you’re going to be physical regardless of time in the penalty box.” Other times it’s important to just use your head, Balkovec said.
Kenosha was on the power play early, including a 5-on-3 advanatage. But that wasn't enough. Storm freshman goalie Sean Leahy (Nicolet) showed great poise in the net, deflecting shots and smothering loose pucks. Leahy made it a frustrating night for Kenosha.
“He’s a gamer,” Balkovec said about Leahy.
Aiken scored the second Storm goal, assisted by Shorewood freshman Matthew Goelz and Djorge Torbica.
David French was hit with an unsportsmanslike conduct penalty, uncharacteristic of the Whitefish Bay senior, and Kenosha found itself once again on the power play.
Leahy stayed strong, his youth defying his skills as he caught shots in his glove and knocked others away with his stick.
Kenosha scored at 3:59 of the second period off a shot from sophomore Alex Buban to cut the deficit to 2-1.
At 4:40 of the second period, Kenosha tied the score with another goal by Buban, that goal unassisted, 2-2.
The Storm’s Aiken scored again to put the Storm ahead 3-2. Aiken’s two goals and assist come after he scored his 100th career point last week. “We’re all proud of what he’s done this year,” Balkovec said.
Kenosha kept intense pressure on Leahy all game and a slapshot fired just left of Leahy’s outstretched hand as time ran out in the second.
In the third period both teams seemed to kick it up a notch. Coach Balkovec paced the bench, engaged on both sides of the ice. Kenosha wasn’t going down without a fight and they came at the Storm with all they had. Kenosha senior Joey Rudd hit a blazing shot that hit Leahy in the chest and riccocheted to Leahy’s right.
Storm senior Hunter Short delivered some bone rattling checks on the defensive boards. Still, Kenosha kept clawing and the Thunder took a timeout with 1:26 left in the game.
After the timeout the Thunder won the faceoff and took aim at Leahy, who continued to smother the puck in front of the goal. The Storm iced the puck with 43.2 seconds left in the game. The clock seemed to tick slowy as Kenosha kept firing away and continued to pressure Leahy. Left, right, but none hitting their target.
The Thunder pulled their goalie awith one minute left as they’d done twice before in the game. The Storm tried to clear the puck but Kenosha slapped it back towards the Storm’s zone. Finally, with five seconds left, the Storm cleared the puck at the buzzer for a 3-2 win.
“We’ve got a lot of trust in Sean in goal,” said teammate Joe Aiken. “He’s earned the team’s respect. At the beginning of the season we weren’t sure what we had in him, but he’s definitely come through for us.”
“I love it,” Leahy said when asked about the pressure. “It’s my favorite part of the game. I get to focus on making the big play.”
Leahy says he knew most of the guys on the team from earlier years, but it was still important to show he could play at this level.
“When we jumped out to the early lead all I kept thinking was keep it going,” Aiken said.
The team is on a roll, winning it’s last three, and coach Balkovec says that’s right where they need to be. “All the guys are buying into the intensity I’ve been preaching,” Balkovec said. “They’re all onboard and that will serve us well in the final stretch of the season.”
The Storm improved to 9-11-0. Up next for the Storm is the Greendale Ice Force on Friday at Wilson Park.