VERONA — The top-ranked Verona boys hockey team is seeing its confidence and cohesiveness grow with each game.
Senior forward Parker Ploc scored two goals and senior defenseman Keegan Lindell got the opening goal and had an assist as host Verona won its 10th consecutive game with a 6-2 decision over Madison West in a Big Eight Conference game Friday night at Verona Ice Arena.
The Wildcats (12-1-0 overall, 7-0-0 Big Eight) stayed hot after rising to the No. 1 ranking in Division 1 in the state coaches’ poll on WisconsinPrepHockey.net following their championship at last week’s Showdown in Titletown tournament. Verona defeated then-No. 1 Green Bay Notre Dame 3-1 in the final after topping then-No. 2 Wausau West in the semifinal.
“The team has a lot of confidence, obviously, taking down the previous No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state,” the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Ploc said. “It gives us the motivation to keep going. Obviously, we had a little rough third period tonight, but I’m proud of the boys for battling through adversity.”
Big Eight leader Verona scored the first four goals — two goals apiece in the first two periods.
“They definitely started jelling, just in the support that they have on the ice for each other,” said Verona coach Joel Marshall, whose team advanced to the WIAA state semifinals last season. “When it’s good, it’s really good. We found that their confidence moving the puck is elevated in the last four or five games.”
Madison West (4-8-0, 2-4-0) rallied to cut its deficit to 4-2 in the third period before Verona responded by scoring the final two of its three power-play goals.
“They are a confident team right now,” Regents coach Steve Libert said about the Wildcats. “When they score, it’s like, ‘Look out.’ You have to take some whistles and slow them down.”
From the start, Verona put the pressure on Madison West junior goaltender Ian Hedican, who finished with 42 saves.
“Ian was on fire,” Libert said. “He was good. I will match him against anybody.”
Lindell, taking a diagonal pass from junior forward Leo Renlund, scored 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the game. Ploc scored on the power play with 1:18 left in the first period, banging in a rebound amid a scramble in front of Hedican.
Senior forward Drew Yeager poked in a rebound at 2:34 of the second period, scoring on his 18th birthday.
Ploc then scored his second goal with 4:50 left in the second period. Ploc, planted at the right side of the net, took a crossing pass from senior forward Cale Rufenacht and tapped in Verona’s fourth goal on the backdoor play.
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Ploc shifted to a line with Rufenacht and Renlund when junior forward Walker Haessig didn’t return after the first period due to injury, Marshall said.
“When Walker went down, we had to shift lines around,” Ploc said. “Playing with Leo and Cale, it just seemed natural.”
Marshall said about Ploc: “He’s smart on his positions and is reaping the benefits of his positioning on the ice. His teammates are feeding him the puck and he is fortunate enough to bury it.”
The Regents began the third period with power-play goals by sophomore forward Eric Horein at 1:55 and senior defenseman Beckett Frey at 6:24.
But the Wildcats answered with power-play goals from junior defensive Nathan Jurrens at 13:43 and sophomore forward Anthony Heinrichs at 16:26.
“We need to continue to work on our end-zone offense and our line rushes to manufacture goals. … We have to be a prickly team to play against,” said Libert, whose team dropped a 3-1 decision to Verona on Dec. 6. “We are not a jaguar. We are a porcupine.”
Rufenacht, junior defenseman Joshua Osting and freshman forward Conrad Moline each had two assists in the game for the Wildcats.
Junior goalie Kaden Grant, who entered with a 1.15 goals against average, made 18 saves for Verona.
Madison West 0 0 2 — 2
Verona 2 2 2 — 6
First period: V — Lindell (Renlund, Osting), 2:15; Ploc (Moline, Heinrichs), 15:42, pp.
Second period: V — Yeager (Lindell), 2:34; Ploc (Rufenacht), 12:10.
Third period: MW — Horein (Huie), 1:55, pp; Frey (Schaak), 6:24, pp. V — Jurrens (Rufenacht, Osting), 13:43, pp; Heinrichs (Moline, Moioffer), 16:26, pp.
Saves: MW (Hedican) 42; V (Grant) 18.
Penalties/minutes: MW 6-12, V 5-10.