Varsity Hockey trounces Neuqua, heads to finals of Carillon Cup


Maddie Crabtree

Junior Ethan Wipff faces off in the first period against Neuqua on Thursday night.

The first period isn’t the whole game. But Thursday night it told the whole story. A power-play goal by senior Will Naffziger opened the scoring with 6:14 to go in the first, a quick one right after, and a Zach Pearce goal with 22.3 seconds left in the opening period set the Warriors club up 3-0, en route to a 5-1 victory over Neuqua Valley in the first round of the Carillon Cup.

The team opened up in what seemed like a deadlock, neither team found the net in the opening nine minutes until Pearce scored the opener. It was looking like another Warriors Hockey/Neuqua Valley slugfest that seems to be on character with the rivalry. That was until the scoring broke open for the warriors. Three first period goals and two more in the third gave the team what they needed to take home the win.

A great offensive first period transitioned to a defensive stand in the second period. After a goal was scored immediately by Neuqua in the second, the Warriors backline shut the door on the rest of the game. Big saves by junior goalie Justin Howard were a huge momentum shifter when the offense went dry. “[Early leads] let me settle in a little bit, our defense steps up more when our offense keeps putting in the goals,” Howard said.

Momentum is a huge part of hockey and the Warriors held it from the beginning. “We’ve played Neuqua in the past and they’ve gotten off to good starts against us and it’s been hard to come back for us during those games so having a good start was key [tonight],” senior Jack Flood said.

That momentum carried into the second and third period, off of Howard saves, he took away a few breakaway opportunities for the Wildcats. “I just take it from save to save, hopefully, I can make the saves that count for my team and it worked out good,” Howard said.

He had the confidence from his teammates too. “We know Justin will make those saves when needed, he’s a great goaltender and having the crowds giving him an extra cheer is definitely nice. He’ll play even better, he’s a stud,” Flood said.

The saves did rile up the crowd, the rink was packed with fans from all of district 204. “Neuqua sucks” chants came out in full swing, glass banging, and passionate fans added to the intense environment. This game was entirely one-sided though, a different step in the history of the matchup. “We’ve never actually beat Neuqua by that big of a score before at least since I’ve been here so it’s incredible,” Flood said. Howard added, “this is my first time playing Neuqua, I mean we came out, we battled, I’m pretty happy with the outcome.”

The team advances to the finals of the Carillon cup, a new tournament with Neuqua, Waubonsie/Metea, Naperville North, and Naperville Central. The new matchup was a surprise, but a welcome one for the Warriors’ club. “This tournament this year is pretty cool because we get to play area teams more often now than usual,” Flood said.

The championship game will be played on Tuesday at All Seasons ice rink.