Storm hockey squad proves area's worth by taking third in Admirals' Cup
Team gets good wins against Sheboygan, Stoughton
For years, the second line of Wisconsin prep hockey teams, Milwaukee area squads are no one's punching bags anymore.
Take the results of the Admirals' Cup last weekend played largely at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Despite losing 7-3 in the semifinals to eventual tournament champion Arrowhead, Whitefish Bay, Nicolet and Shorewood (WNS) co-op coach Maco Balkovec was impressed at the level of overall play. His Storm squad did bounce back to rout Stoughton, 6-1, in the third-place game after opening the event with a 4-1 victory over Sheboygan.
"It was a great weekend," Balkovec said. "The Sheboygan game against a (Fox River) Valley opponent showed us to be a legitimate hockey team and it just wasn't us. The Milwaukee area has just gotten deeper and deeper."
"The teams from outside the area (in the tourney) like Sheboygan and Stoughton were no slouches, but both got introduced to Milwaukee hockey, and I was impressed how we (and the other area teams) played."
The Storm came out of the event with a 12-2 overall mark. Arrowhead wound up beating the Storm's North Shore rival Cedarburg, 3-2, for the tourney title. They will be at Nagawaukee on Friday to take on Waukesha. They then take on Stoughton again on Jan. 8 back at the Kern Center.
Coach wants winning attitude
Balkovec is looking for one change as the team heads into the new year.
"Against Arrowhead we didn't play with the mentality (as if we were going to win)," he said. "We started rather sluggishly. Against Stoughton we were able to do that. We started so fast against them."
And they were rather diversified against the Vikings, too, as Andy Krugler had two goals and one assist and Brendan Nagle, Drew Kneisel (also an assist), Colin Downing and Oskar Bjornstad also all found the back of the net.
Djordje Torbica continued his great playmaking with four assists.
"We learned a few things in the Arrowhead game," Balkovec said. "I'm glad we're learning these lessons in December rather than in February."
Because it was a hard lesson against Arrowhead, as WNS fell behind 6-1 after two periods and could never recover. That was despite the Storm outshooting the 9-2-1 Warhawks 37-26.
"Right until the third period, I thought we could still make a push," Balkovec said, "but it just didn't go the way we wanted. Arrowhead didn't have a lot of great chances, but they converted all of them."
Team is resilient
Thomas Aiken had a goal and an assist and Jack Hoge and Bjornstad also found the back of the net.
Balkovec was very pleased with the Sheboygan effort, as Torbica had a hat trick and Aiken and Kneisel contributed two assists apiece. Second-line center Nick Sullivan also contributed a goal.
"Nick (Sullivan) has gotten better every single year," Balkovec said. "If there's a kid who loves hockey more than he does, I'd like to meet him. He'd skate 24 hours a day if he could."
For the weekend, Balkovec also liked the efforts of Torbica as well as those of Aiken and Andy Keith ("Andy's been lights out all year," Balkovec said) and Krugler, who, according to Balkovec and the most recent statistics, leads the state in power play goals.
"I've liked how resilient we've been," Balkovec said. "The kids don't get down. It's like learning to become a professional. We're working hard to bring the same mentality to the rink every single day, and that'll be important in the coming weeks as our schedule gets very difficult."
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