There were a lot of moving parts that went into the Homestead boys hockey team's third straight North Shore Conference title this season, which was officially clinched with a 6-3 decision over the Germantown Ice Bears co-op on Jan. 24.
The Highlanders, who also routed nonconference opponent the Greendale Ice Force co-op, 8-1, on Jan. 25, went into this week with a 17-3 overall mark, including a 5-1 North Shore record.
Coach Tony Navarre is very pleased with how the team is playing.
"Three straight conference titles, the last two solo winners, feels good," he said. "This team has been challenging but a lot of fun to coach. They have a knack for stepping up in big moments and in big games."
The Highlanders took on area rival state power University School in a nonconference game on Jan. 31 that Navarre said will have huge implications for seeding in the upcoming WIAA sectional playoffs.
"We feel confident that if we play our game, we can be competitive at a state level," he said. "We have some players who have really contributed big time this year."
Homestead will host Waukesha in a nonconference game on Saturday, Feb. 4.
No details were available from the Ice Bears win. In the win over the Ice Force, the Highlanders trailed, 1-0, just 34 seconds into the game but then overpowered their visiting opponents.
Jackson Katz, who is fifth in the state in goals scored, had four goals, while Cole DeStefanis had a goal and an assist, and Andy Buchanan, Joey Buenz, and Jack Curtis all had solo scores. Pierce Stastney and PJ Quale both had two assists apiece, and AJ O'Brien made 19 saves in goal.
Navarre highlighted several players who have helped the Highlanders get this far.
He said Katz has added another level to his game in terms of strength and speed, while sophomore Stastney, in his first year at the school, has sparked the team with his "great ability to see the ice."
"(He has) natural ability and makes everyone around him better," Navarre said.
Navarre also noted the team wouldn't have achieved nearly as much without the efforts of senior captain Nathan Schimpf.
"(He) has had to play a ton of minutes with some injuries at the defensive level," he said.
Navarre said the team is confident at this point.
"(We're) looking forward to another state push," he said.