Notre Dame scored 5 unanswered goals
By Erik Buchinger
The Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha Rockets boys’ hockey team let a three-goal lead slip away in a 6-4 loss to Notre Dame in the sectional final on Friday, Feb. 23 in Ashwaubenon.
The Rockets were ahead 4-1 before Notre Dame scored five unanswered goals the rest of the way.
“It’s one of those things where you tell the kids that for some reason, tonight wasn’t our night,” Rockets head coach Mike Elkin said. “There’s going to be some powers to be at some point in time of their lives where they’re going to learn from this, and they’re going to be better people because of it.”
Notre Dame got on the board first, but the Rockets responded a little more than a minute later with a goal for Ethan Long with assists from Owen Engel and Dillon Fox.
The game was tied at one after the first period before the Rockets went on a scoring surge with three goals in two minutes to take a three-goal lead.
NHM had two goals from Drew Sutton and one scored by Dillon Fox. Alec Elkin had two assists, while Thomas Priest, Luke Elkin and Cody Dias each had one assist in that stretch.
Notre Dame quickly cut the lead back to one with two quick goals and tied the game up at four late in the second period.
“Just like we got some good bounces through hard work, they got some good bounces through hard work,” Mike Elkin said. “That’s what happens in a game. There was 13.5 minutes left, and they’re calling their timeout in the second period. We’re up 4-1 buzzing them, and then we sort of lost our brains a little bit. We didn’t play too intelligent. We told the kids there’s a lot of game left. They can easily come back from this, and we’ve got to stick to what we’re doing, and unfortunately we really didn’t follow through with that.”
Notre Dame regained the lead less than five minutes into the third period and tacked on another goal to take a 6-4 lead.
“The first period was pretty even, and in the second period we started on fire,” Mike Elkin said. “They slowly fought their way back in, and the third period was theirs.”
The Rockets had a power play and pulled the goalie late in the third period but were unable to find the back of the net.
“This year has really been a grind, playing the third toughest schedule in the state,” Mike Elkin said. “So every game is huge, and we’ve had a lot of close ones, which made us better, and I thought made us ready for tonight.”
Mike Elkin reflected on the Rockets’ season, which included a No. 1 seed in the postseason, and came one win away from the program’s first ever state tournament appearance.
“Right now it’s difficult to look at the great season we really did have, but we know it’s there and we know that our seniors had an unbelievable run,” Mike Elkin said. “It has to be the best run in a four-year career for Preston Long, Stephen Priest, Alec Elkin and Ethan Blaney, who came on the scene the last couple years seeing some varsity time. Heck of a run by those four individuals with a good core behind them.”
Mike Elkin said he was happy with how much support the NHM hockey team has received this season despite the loss.
“I appreciate our fans and everybody getting behind us,” Mike Elkin said. “I wish tonight we could’ve punched our ticket to Madison and been on our way next Wednesday, but that obviously isn’t the case anymore, and we’ll deal with it.”