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Wildcat skaters open BRC play this week

Casey Jerry, left, Corbin Renslow and Kyle Hargrave are the only three seniors on the Wildcat hockey team this season. In their first three games last week, Jerry had two goals and six assists, Renslow went 2-0 in goal and Hargrave scored a pair of goals as the Cats opened the season 2-1. <i>Bob Burrows photo</i>

First-year Wildcat hockey coach saw a little bit of everything from his team last week.

High-energy in a 7-1 season-opening win over Baldwin-Woodville, lackluster play in a 4-1 loss to Somerset, and three solid periods in a 6-2 victory over Amery.

When the week was over, the Wildcats had a record of 2-1 heading into their Big Rivers Conference and home opener Thursday, Nov. 29, against Rice Lake.

Kealy said the Cats came out flying in their season opener last Tuesday at Baldwin-Woodville.

"We have talked a lot about high energy play, and out shooting Baldwin-Woodville 26-1 in the first period was a great example of high energy play," he said. "We played hard and physical."

Casey Jerry opened the scoring five minutes in, assisted by Connor Maxwell, before the Blackhawks tied the score three minutes later.

It was all River Falls after that. Kyle Hargrave gave the Wildcats the lead for good just nine seconds later, assisted by Billy Jerry and Casey Jerry, and Maxwell scored at the 16:15 mark with another assist from Casey Jerry, to make it a 3-1 game after one.

Maxwell scored his second goal with an assist from Hunter Dolan at the 12:30 mark of the second period and Roy Cranston netted a power-play goal at the 15:55 mark to extend the Wildcats' lead to 5-1.

Cranston scored again five minutes into the third period, with an assist from Michael Conde, before Mason Woiwode ended the scoring with a power-play goal with less than seven minutes remaining, assisted by Billy Jerry and Casey Jerry.

"Sophomore Roy Cranston played very well. He brought a lot of energy and was rewarded with his first and second varsity goals," Kealy noted. "Throughout the second period we started running around. The team is learning quickly how we need to stay disciplined in our system coverages."

Wildcat goaltender Corbin Renslow finished with 16 saves as the Cats outshot the Blackhawks by a whopping 63-17.

Assistant coach Sam Pilney said the Cats looked good in their first game of the season.

"As a team we played together," he said. "It was the right kind of game to start the season."

Things didn't go as well in Friday's contest against Somerset at the Amery Ice Arena. Despite outshooting the Spartans, 37-22, River Falls came out on the short end of a 4-1 score.

"This was one of those games as a coach you don't want to see very often," Kealy said. "We lacked energy and focus and it showed. From the start to the finish we were flat."

The one Wildcat goal came off the stick of Maxwell, assisted by Casey Jerry, early in the third period to make it a 3-1 game.

Kealy said one bright spot was the play of junior forward Brady Stocker. "He is one of the hardest working players on the team, and makes good decisions," the coach said.

Wildcat goaltender Logan Otterson made 18 saves in the loss.

The Wildcats bounced back Saturday against Amery, putting together three quality periods, according to Kealy, in a 6-2 victory.

"This was our best game of the three," he said.

The Wildcats trailed 1-0 before scoring three times in the second period to take a 3-1 lead.

Maxwell netted the Cats' first two goals, on a power play at the 4:13 mark of the period and a shorthanded goal six minutes later. Stocker earned an assist on the tying goals while Billy Jerry assisted on the go-ahead score.

Hargrave extended the Wildcat lead to 3-1 with a power play goal at the 4:23 mark of the third period, assisted by Woiwode and Stocker, and after an Amery score, Billy Jerry found the back of the net, assisted by Woiwode and Stocker, to make it a 4-1 game.

Maxwell tallied his third goal of the game, assisted by Jack Benusa and Casey Jerry, at the 5:21 mark of the third before Tyler Eliason made the final 6-2 two minutes later, assisted by Benusa.

"Connor Maxwell and Mason Woiwode had great games; they worked hard and have a lot of potential," Kealy said. "Billy Jerry, as a freshman, shows tremendous composure and makes great play after great play. It is fun to see young players scoring their first varsity goal."

Renslow stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced as Amery outshot River Falls, 28-23.

"Corbin Renslow is settling in very well," Kealy said. "He is seeing the puck and controlling his rebounds."

Defensive coach Ryan Purfeerst said sophomore Sam Shafer also played well.

"He is our most physical player and makes a lot happen when he is on the ice," Purfeerst said.

Kealy said he had the opportunity to see all the Wildcats on the ice in the first three games and likes what he saw.

"With only three seniors we should continue to get better throughout the season," he said. "I'm excited to start Big Rivers Conference play."

Thursday's game against Rice Lake begins at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Centre.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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