Tony Stillwell eventually will call Madison his hockey home.
But the Green Bay Notre Dame senior defenseman would like to end his high school career there first.
The University of Wisconsin recruit is hoping to lead the Tritons to the WIAA state tournament at the Alliant Energy Center for a sixth straight year.
Stillwell discusses his team and his personal road to becoming an NCAA Division I recruit in this week’s senior spotlight.
You made the roster for the Madison Capitols over the summer, but decided not to play for them this season. Why was it important to play your senior season at Notre Dame?
You get to be a senior and be a kid that the freshmen look up to. I know I looked up to (former Notre Dame and current Wisconsin defenseman) Tim Davison. I looked up to him like he was the best thing that ever lived when I was a freshman. He was the coolest guy in school and really good at hockey. To be a guy that people are looking up to and being a leader and wearing a “C” is really special.
Do you still refer to yourself as the “Third best Davison” in your Twitter handle?
I ended up changing it for individuality’s sake. (The nickname) was given to me from one of the jokers on the team. They called Luke (Tim’s brother) second best the year before, so when I came up the year after, I was the third best.
Your WIAA sectional features top-ranked Bay Port, which beat you twice during the regular season. Do you feel your team has less pressure on it as an underdog for a change?
That’s a good way of putting it. It’s more of a real thing. We’re not an all-star team with guys that can go play anywhere if they want. We’re a real high school hockey team. We have a bunch of blue-collar guys that aren’t as skilled and guys that just love to play. Then we have guys that want to go places, too.
You’re listed on the roster at 5-foot-8 and 167 pounds. Do you get tired of junior and college hockey scouting reports that discuss your lack of size as a defenseman?
Recently I have been because people have straight out said it to me. Growing up I was never worried about it. Guys were always taller than me and bigger than me. But it was always like, “I want to be better than you or I want to be on the winning team in practice.” So, that’s what drove me through it all. That’s going to be an obstacle I have to climb over, so let’s do it because it’s going to come up.
You missed the start of the season with an ankle injury. What happened?
I had what was called a bone cyst. … It’s something where you’re glad you found it because if that would have broken it would have been really bad because it was right in the arch of my foot. Think of it as like a coconut. There’s a bone and a hole inside with fluid, so they drilled two holes in the side of my ankle to drain it and filled it to treat it.
How did you start playing hockey?
When we were in Kohler, we would do an outdoor rink on tennis courts. My dad would help out because he loved hockey in college (at Wisconsin). He loved watching it and skating around. It was like his stress reliever. All my older brothers played hockey. One of them played on the Junior Gamblers and that’s kind of how I got started, too.
Your older brother, Andrew, was a junior forward on Notre Dame’s WIAA state title team in 2012 that you were also a part of. How many other brothers do you have?
I have nine siblings. I’m seventh (of 10 kids). There’s six boys, four girls. We moved from Kohler before my freshman year, so anyone down there would recognize our name. Up here it’s just been myself and (Andrew) that has gone through Notre Dame.
When I think of Kohler, I think of the Whistling Straits Golf Course. Does your family golf?
No. We weren’t a big golfing family. We would just go out once or twice in the summer and have fun with it. That was about it.
Wisconsin basketball player Sam Dekker is from Sheboygan. Did you ever cross paths with him?
Dekker actually ended up coming to my brother’s wedding. We actually talked for a good amount of time about Wisconsin.
Do you think you beat him in a game of P-I-G?
Most definitely not. I’m actually the most unathletic kid ever.
What’s something you don’t do well?
Basketball, football, running — gym class was always a struggle. I tried hard, so I got a good grade. But if we were doing a grade based on ability, I definitely would be failing. It’s just a fact.
Which of your teammates has the smelliest locker?
Jake DeLeers. I think it’s just his work ethic that does that.
Who is the loudest person?
We’ve got a deceivingly loud kid who has a quiet voice but is always chatting. But then we’ve got some loud voices. The one that is chatting all the time is Stephen Lovell. The next loudest one is either Jack Pavek or Skyler Palmer.
Who is the most polite?
Sean Green or Zach Krysiak. They’re like the perfect child. They have never said anything negative towards anyone. They’re always smiling. You can tell them the dumbest joke and they’ll laugh anyway.
Who is the worst dresser?
Michael Karow at times. He just doesn’t care. He’s not trying to be cool. If he feels like sweats one day, he’ll wear sweats. But I’m not talking about a school day. This would be for like a Saturday practice.
I forgot about the dress code at Notre Dame. Is there anything you’ve seen a classmate do to rebel against the collared shirt?
I’ve seen sarcastic stuff, so the opposite of rebellious. They try to be perfect. We have the saying, “You have three buttons, use them.”
It’s like a shirt hat trick, right?
It’s the way you button them up, so it’s the shirt hat trick.
What’s the coolest rink you’ve ever played at?
Chelsea Piers in New York. You’re out on the piers and the rinks are horizontally facing the harbor. They’re layered, too, so it’s like a double-decker. There’s big windows, so you have the sunlight coming in. It’s pretty cool. It’s probably the most interesting. But the coolest is probably the Mariucci (Arena) in Minnesota.
What’s your most memorable moment playing hockey?
The (USA Hockey Tier I Youth) National Championships last year and winning that in four overtimes (for U16 Team Wisconsin). I don’t know what I did, but I got the puck and it got in the net. I celebrated pretty big, so that was probably the most memorable.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Walking on the ice with the (skate guards) is a classic one. I’ve done that once.
TV show: “How I Met Your Mother.”
Song: “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding.
Childhood toy: Lincoln Logs.
Video game: LEGO Star Wars.
Animal: Baby hedgehog or miniature chameleon.
Class: Philosophy religion.
Hockey player: Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug.
Did you know?
Stillwell can play the guitar, french horn, trumpet and piano.
“He’s become one of the elite hockey players, not only in our state, but probably the U.S. … He’s done some amazing things in the four years in our program and he’ll continue to do some amazing things as he leaves our program and goes on to play at the next level.” — Green Bay Notre Dame hockey coach Cory McCracken