“It’s hard to narrow us down to one word because there’s so much that makes this team so great,” Appleton United forward Nathan Zilisch said.
If there’s one word that can sum up the Appleton United hockey team, it’s that second word in their team name: United.
“We’re just the one team that comes together to play hockey, and play the sport that we love,” Appleton United goalie Dylan Phinney said. “We just think of it that way, and improve on that, and go into the playoffs just thinking we’re the one team and not three high schools.”
From Appleton North, Appleton East and Appleton West, this United squad has come together as the number one seed heading into the playoffs.
“Yeah there’s certainly pressure,” Appleton United coach Mike Brolsma said. “There’s certainly pressure on us, but these kids know what pressure’s like. They’ve been in pressure situations before, and I’m sure they’ll come through.”
The team will have a little extra motivation this time around, especially after falling in the state quarterfinals to Wausau West last season.
“It’s a constant reminder for us,” Phinney said. “It’s our screen saver. It’s our everything. It’s what we don’t want to happen and it starts with the little things that we do.”
“I think we can definitely build on that playoff run last year, and use those bits and pieces that work for us and incorporate that with some of the new stuff we got to make a deep playoff push,” Appleton United forward Trenton Bliss said.
The quest for their first ever state championship seems as close as it has ever been this season. Appleton United features the talent, with players like Wisconsin recruit Trenton Bliss and goaltender Dylan Phinney, to go along with the team chemistry.
“We’ve got some high end players on down to the guys who play a certain role for us,” Brolsma said. “The guys all have bought into what we’ve been preaching as a coaching staff, and at the end of the day it’s the work ethic that makes it special.”
“You can be having the worst day possible, but then you go into the locker room and you’re surrounded by a bunch of your friends, a bunch of your teammates,” Zilisch said. “It’s perfect.”
“It’s definitely one of the best teams in Appleton United history, and I think one of the best teams in the state this year,” Bliss said. “I think we have all the bits and pieces to hopefully win a state championship.”
The hunt for that state title begins this Friday against No. 9 Waupaca.