Impressive Homestead hockey team wins first-ever North Shore Tournament
WNS group remains competitive despite injuries
Homestead won the first annual North Shore Conference hockey tournament with the help of a decisive 6-2 win over a game WNS Storm co-op team Jan. 12.
"It just became a matter of depth," WNS coach Maco Balkovec said. "They're (the Highlanders) as talented a team as you're going to see and they have a total of around 43 kids in the program while we're working with just 27. We also have guys who are sick, hurt. We just can't seem to get a full complement of people all at the same time."
With the win, the Highlanders, who are coached by Chris Donovan, improved to 12-4 overall while the Storm (which represents Whitefish Bay, Nicolet and Shorewood) fell to 8-7.
In that game, the Highlanders took control with a three-goal second period, that made it 4-1 going into the final session.
Thomas Fazio led the way for Homestead with two goals and two assists while Ryan Mezera and Jon Weyker both had a goal and an assist, and Jake Roeper and Will Tucker both had a goal each. Peter Schmitz and Evan Siodlarz each had two assists each.
The Storm got a goal and an assist each from Drew Kneisel and Djordje Torbica.
Highlanders rout Grafton
Homestead followed that up with an impressive 13-0 rout of Grafton on Saturday in another NSC tourney game as Roeper, Schmitz and Weyker all had two goals each, and an impressive 10 players all found the back of the net.
The Highlanders, who have played a challenging schedule have been led by the powerhouse quintet of Schmitz (20 goals and 22 assists), Roeper (13 goals and 28 assists), Fazio (12 goals and 18 assists), Mezera (nine goals and 21 assists) and Adam Connolly (11 goals and six assists).
Killian Martin (9-3 record) has a 2.81 goals against average in net (save percentage of .892) while getting help from Cole Mitchell (5-2, 3.67 GAA, .845 save percentage).
Earlier in the NSC tourney, Homestead belted Germantown/Menomonee Falls, 4-1, on Jan. 9, and blasted Cedarburg, 7-1, on Jan. 10.
With the conference title settled, the Highlanders schedule will ratchet into a high gear in terms of nonleague play. They visit Monona Grove on Friday and then host Waukesha at 7 p.m. Saturday and then play state power and area rival University School at 8 p.m. Jan. 24, a game that will have major ramifications in terms of WIAA sectional seeding.
Both home games will be at the Ozaukee Ice Center.
Storm needs players back
As far as the Storm is concerned, Balkovec is looking to get healthy so he can run more lines out. He currently can only go with two quality lines currently on his underclassmen-dominated squad, as juniors Torbica and Kneisel, both of Shorewood and junior Andy Krugler of Whitefish Bay make up his top offensive group.
Whitefish Bay-based players make up his top defensive set as sophomore Colin Downing, junior Andy Keith and sophomore Thomas Aiken help out Nicolet sophomore goalie Sean Leahy. It didn't help the WNS effort when Downing got hurt right before the Homestead game.
Balkovec is looking to get captain and Nicolet senior Jack Rabenn back in the lineup. Rabenn has played only four shifts this season because of a shoulder injury.
"Given all that, the kids have done an admirable job," Balkovec said. "Every game they've shown up and done a good job of filling in where needed. I think once we get everyone back we can be a threat."
In other tournament games for the Storm, they defeated Grafton, 5-2, on Jan. 9 and Germantown/Menomonee Falls, 4-1, on Jan. 10, before losing to Cedarburg, 3-1, on Jan. 11.
WNS, which had an exhausting quirk of six games in seven days through the tournament, is off until Friday, when it hosts Oregon at the Kern Center at 7:30 p.m. They then come back at noon Saturday for another nonconference game at the Kern with Stevens Point Pacelli.
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