University School of Milwaukee forward Andrew Malek drives to the net under heavy defensive pressure from Simley during the first period. Simley goalie James Royce stopped 43 shots as the Spartans defeated Milwaukee 3-2. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Simley stuck to a simple motto entering the Schwan’s Cup Open Division title game Thursday morning against University School of Milwaukee, the third-ranked team in the Wisconsin coaches’ poll, which hadn’t been scored on in the three-day tournament.
“We rallied around ‘it’s not going to be easy. We just have to play simple and simple is not easy’,” Spartans coach Austyn Kryzer said.
Simley scraped its way to its sixth consecutive victory following a 3-2 win over the Wildcats at Ridder Arena, much to the credit of goaltender James Royce, whose 43 saves was one shy of a career-high for the senior.
“James has been there for us all year,” Kryzer said. “He’s the backbone of this team. He played his heart out today, but we get that kind of effort from him every game.”
Walker Smith ended University School's shutout streak in the tournament six minutes into the game, gathering a rebound created by Jamie Warrick, circling across the crease and shelving the puck over the glove of Wildcats goaltender Frank Fee. The duo each tallied a goal and an assist.
University School (9-1) leveled the score on a 2-on-1 rush where Reid Woods zipped the puck across the slot to Tyler Herzberg, who scored top shelf past Royce late in the first period.
Royce made a trio of diving saves to preserve his team’s lead in the second period. The goalie denied second and third scoring attempts from the Wildcats who couldn’t find a goal despite firing 17 shots on net in the middle period.
“I feel a little more comfortable with more shots,” Royce said. “It keeps you engaged all the time and always aware.”
Noah Roitman fired a shot that slipped past Fee’s glove midway through the second period to give the Spartans the lead. Warrick added to the lead, scraping for the puck to the right of the net and firing it home for the eventual game-winner.
Royce saved 34 consecutive shots until the Wildcats came within one following a goal by Robby Newton with 29 seconds left in regulation. Royce wasn’t rattled and made a final save to clinch the Spartans the tournament hardware.
Simley has already doubled their win total from a season ago when six skaters were injured throughout the year. Their success this season has been no surprise for the Simley (9-2-1, 1-1-1) coaching staff.
"We’re playing more together,” Royce said, adding some of the seniors have played together since they were three and four years old. “The chemistry is there and we can always improve on that by making crisp passes, watching out for each other and keep playing the game we love.”
University School of Milwaukee forward Robby Newton carries the puck up ice with Simley's Evan Schultz (17) in pursuit. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
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