The Fond du Lac boys hockey team has had contributions from all over the roster to reach its first WIAA state tournament appearance since 2009, but none have been more visible than those of its top line.
The forward trio of senior Michael Wilson, junior Ty Rebedew and sophomore Jack Nejedlo have been the Cardinals’ bread-and-butter all season, and will need to be again if Fondy is to get past its quartefinal opponent, Superior.
That trio is coming off one of its best games of the season, totalling eight points in the Cardinals’ 6-4 sectional final win last Friday night over Homestead. Nejedlo had a hat trick in the third period alone and had two assists, Rebedew had a goal and Wilson tallied four assists. Those three also combined for six points in the team’s 4-1 sectional semifinal win over Cedarburg. It’s been a big response after a Wilson goal and assist were the only points between the three when they opened the playoffs with a 5-1 win over Germantown Feb. 14.
“I think their chemistry came back together,” Cardinals coach Ryan Sarazin said after practice Tuesday. “They ran into a couple rough patches, but it’s come back together. There’s times you can think, ‘We could change it up now,’ but they’ve got us to this point of the season. They’ve been playing really well. It’s nice to see them step up in the last couple games.”
Combining goals and assists, Fond du Lac (22-3-2) scored 286 points during the regular season. Nearly 60 percent — 171 of them — were by Wilson, Rebedew or Nejedlo. The trio has been responsible for 18 of the team’s 37 postseason points (48.6 percent), including 14 of the team’s 24 over the past two games.
“We just get each other,” Wilson said. “There’s no other guys I’d rather be playing with at this point of the season. We have great chemistry and just find each other. We make great plays as a line together because we’re faster-paced.”
“We’re playing with heart right now,” added Rebedew. “We’ve found our systems and are communicating a lot better with each other. We know who’s there and who’s not. We trust each other to do the right thing.”
Including the playoffs, Wilson leads the three with 71 points on 31 goals and 40 assists. He had four assists against Homestead. Nejedlo has 69 points on 25 goals and 44 assists, while Rebedew has 49 points on 34 goals and 15 assists.
That top line connection came through in the clutch last Friday with the game tied at four and less than 3 minutes left. After a Homestead breakaway was stopped, Wilson gathered the puck and rung it ahead to a streaking Nejedlo going the other way, and Nejedlo fired it for the go-ahead goal with 2:09 left to play. Wilson also assisted on Nejedlo’s empty-netter 42 seconds later.
Sarazin said that each of the three brings their own attributes that add up to a potent combination.
“They complement each other well,” he said. “Michael can score goals and provide some grit. Ty is a total grit guy. He’s clutch around the net. He can score the pretty goal off the crossbar or he can bang home those rebounds. He’s got that short stature. He’s a strong kid and is hard to knock over. Jack has the vision. He sees the ice better than most. He can find the guys in those seams.”
Tuesday was the team’s final practice at the Fond du Lac Blue Line Ice Center. They’ll practice this morning at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, home of the state tournament. The Cardinals face Superior (17-8-1) in the second game of Thursday night’s quarterfinals.