The St. Mary’s Springs hockey team spent most of Tuesday night’s WIAA Sectional Semifinal against Brookfield trying to rally.
It did, but it didn’t finish the job.
The Ledgers came back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to tie the game with a little over 6 minutes to play, but then couldn’t stop the eighth-seeded Stars down the stretch, giving up two legitimate goals and an empty-netter for a season-ending 6-3 loss at the Blue Line Family Ice Center.
Brookfield (14-10-3) — which took down top-seeded Homestead last week, earned another road-upset by beating fifth-seeded Springs (18-9) and is now one win away from the state tournament.
Stars’ junior forward John Rymaszewski finished with five points on the night, including a hat trick as the Ledgers’ defensive miscues were its downfall, along with not being able to find the back of the net despite a considerable shots-on-goal advantage.
“Things started going our way in the third period, but then we had a couple defensive weaknesses,” Springs senior defenseman Logan Mertens said. “We were pressuring a lot and had a couple bounces go against us. That was the key between winning and losing. It’s tough.”
The Ledgers got two third-period goals from junior Anthony Grebe to tie the game at 3-3, while Zach McLaughlin had their other score.
Springs put 35 shots on Brookfield goalie JJ Murnane and allowed only 24, but the Stars made their’s count more. At times the Ledgers’ offense seemed to be in complete control, but it couldn’t come up with the secondary shots near the net it needed to beat Stars’ Murnane.
“Shots are one thing, but if you have a good goalie, he’ll make the initial save,” Ledgers coach Tim Ahern said. “What we didn’t do was get to the net away from the puck. Rebounds were there, but our guys were watching the play rather than playing it into the net.”
“We made some rookie mistakes — things we worked on in practice but didn’t do in the game,” McLaughlin added. “We weren’t crashing the net like we’re supposed to. We were funneling away from the net, doing fly-byes, not stopping in front to finish a rebound. It killed us in the end.”
It was a nightmare start for Springs fans, who saw their team down 2-0 after 11 minutes. Brookfield first got on the board at 5 minutes and 25 seconds in on a power play, working a quick zone with the puck going from Rymaszewski to Vince Dombrowski and then over to Riley Keays, who put a 15-foot slapshot past goalie Andrew Riehl’s left side.
The Stars made it 2-0 with 5:58 left in the period as Rymanszewski flew up the left side of the ice before sending a beautiful centering pass to Patrick McKnight, who buried it in the net from just outside of the crease.
Springs showed immediate resolve, answering 81 seconds later as McLaughlin took the puck up an open patch of ice past Brookfield’s blue line and fired past Murnane for an unassisted goal that made it a 2-1 game.
The Ledgers controlled the puck the final 5 minutes of the first period, teeing off on Murnane down the stretch. It continued into the second, with Springs holding a zone for much of the first half and creating plenty of scoring opportunities. But it couldn’t get past Murnane.
The Ledgers seemed primed to tie the game when they went on a power play with 7:01 left in the second period, but the opposite happened. Forty seconds into the power play, Rymaszewski took a clearing pass in the open for a breakaway and went 5-hole on Riehl for an unassisted goal with 5:45 left in the frame. Before that happened, Springs had a 26-9 shots-on-goal advantage.
The teams skated even the rest of the second period, and Springs seized momentum early in the third. It went on a power play with 13:38 left in the game, and cashed in just 18 seconds into it as Logan Mertens fed a pass to Grebe, who was parked at the edge of the net and tapped it in for a score.
With 6:17 left to play, Grebe struck again in similar fashion. He took a pass from McLaughlin right in front of the net and poked it past Murnane to tie the game at 3-3. It pushed his season points total to 55, with 36 goals.
The momentum was cut down a few minutes later when Brookfield’s Nate Mikelonis gave his team the lead back on a power play goal with 2:53 to play off a centering pass from Rymaszewski, who tallied his third assist of the game.
“We had multiple chances to clear the zone but weren’t strong enough to on several occasions,” Ahern said of how the goal was set up. “It turns into taking an ill-advised penalty with 4 minutes left. Just not good.”
Then, Rymaszewski put the game away. With a little over 1 minute left, he took a pass from McKnight past Springs’ blue line, dodged a Ledger stick-swat and scored for a 5-3 lead. Springs then pulled its goalie, and Rymaszewski got a hat trick by tapping in an empty net goal with 35 seconds left.
Brookfield will face second-seeded University School Saturday afternoon in a sectional semifinal at Wilson Park in Milwaukee, where the winner advances to the state quarterfinals in Madison.
First period: B – Riley Keays (Vince Dombrowski, John Rymaszewski), 11:35 (pp); B – Patrick McKnight (Rymanszewski, Dombrowski), 5:58; SP – Zach McLaughlin (unassisted), 4:37.
Second period: B – Rymaszewski (unassisted), 5:45 (SH).
Third period: SP – Anthony Grebe (Logan Mertens, Mark Austin), 13:20 (PP); SP – Grebe (McLaughlin), 6:17; B – Rymaszewski (McKnight), 1:04. B – Rymaszewski, :35 (en).
Saves: Brookfield (JJ Murnane) 29, Springs (Andrew Riehl) 18.