Appleton United coach Marcus Nejedlo and his staff noticed a flaw in Emma Kohl’s shot during pregame drills.
They fixed it and that proved to be major trouble for the Fox Cities Stars.
Kohl delivered a hat trick and United came up big on the power play, skating to a 6-1 Eastern Shores Conference girls’ hockey win Tuesday at the Appleton Family Ice Center.
It was the first hat trick of the season for Kohl, a skilled junior defenseman.
“Feels pretty awesome. I just happened to find the back of the net,” said Kohl. “The coaches noticed before the game that I was winding up too much and needed to lower my stick. I did that and it really helped me find the net.”
All of Kohl’s goals came in the final period and they weren’t cheap ones. Two of them came on long slap shots.
“She picked right up on the change after we told her about it during warm-ups,” said Nejedlo. “It’s hard to transfer something like that from warm-ups to the game, but it turned out to be fantastic for us.”
Appleton United (9-7-2, 4-4 Eastern Shores) did major damage on the power play. Three of United’s first foul goals were on the power play, including Kohl’s first goal early in the third period.
“We’re pretty strong on the power play,” said Nejedlo. “We have some girls who are very skilled and move the puck around very well. When you do that, you can create some open lanes to shoot through. We attacked the net pretty hard. We did all the things you need to do to make the power play work.”
Appleton United controlled the puck most of the contest and Stars goalie Morgan Talbot kept the Stars competitive with a whopping 41 saves. Michaela Kluck netted the lone goals for the Stars (7-11-0, 1-5).
“We didn’t have enough offensive opportunities and had some penalties,” said Stars coach Pete Spinner. “But we have to stay in position to beat power plays. We stayed with them the first couple periods by sticking with our game plan. I give my girls a lot of credit. They skated with them until the end of the game.”
Appleton United led 1-0 at the end of the first period on a Natalie West goal, then struck again 20 seconds into the second period when Greta Brown tapped in a loose puck in front of the net.
Defenseman Katie Trucco’s power play goal gave United a 3-0 lead after two periods and Kohl took over from there with her three-goal binge in the final period.
“We’ve really come together the last couple weeks,” said Kohl. “You could tell with our passing and communication that we were really on tonight. We’re playing great. This team could go far. It has a lot of potential.”
Nejedlo also likes the way his team is playing late in the season.
“This team has been progressing very well,” said Nejedlo. “We play a tough schedule and we’ve been getting better because of it. Everything is starting to click for us and I feel like we’re getting some momentum for the tournament. We’re moving the puck very well as a team.”
West and Molly McKeever had two assists apiece for United.
Goals — First period: Natalie West AU PPG (Jenny Miller, Molly McKeever) 13:32; Second period: Greta Brown AU (Katie Trucco, West) 0:20; Trucco PPG (Kohl, Juuli Spelman) 7:34; Third period: Kohl AU PPG (Natalie West, Molly McKeever) 4:42; Michaela Kluck FCS 8:40; Kohl (AU) 13:28; Kohl AU (West) 16:35. Shots on goal: Appleton United 47, Fox Cities Stars 12. Goalie saves: Morgan Talbot FCS 47, Libbey Breaker AU 11.
— Tim Froberg: 920-993-1000, ext. 423, or email@example.com; On Twitter @twfroberg