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Westminster Christian Academy reaches Wickenheiser Cup quarterfinals, will play Fort Zumwalt East

Westminster Christian Academy hockey coach Dean Penberthy likes how his club has overcame heavy graduation losses from last season to have a good campaign this year.

The Wildcats finished the regular season at 11-9-1, winning their last four games. In the Midstates Club Hockey Association’s Wickenheiser Cup tournament, Westminster was seeded fifth.

The Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats. Front Row: Mike Johnson, Harry Ottsen, Collin McCarthy, Emily Griege, Logan Yantes, Tommy Le, Gus Duda, Caleb Bross, Drew Gingerich. Second Row: Head Coach Dean Penberthy, Jack Freeman, Jack Wooldridge, Dylan Wells, Jack Bystrom, Aidan Penberthy, Ben Parres, Jon Lane, Zack Kilgore, Matt Burgess, Assistant Coach Dave Tharenos. Not Pictured: Brandon Swenson.

“The club finished a couple games over .500 for the season,” Penberthy said. “We finished strong. We lost 12 skaters from last years roster and finished as a higher seed this year than last. I feel like the club has done very well.”

Westminster, winners of the Wickenheiser Cup in 2018, was in Division D for pool play. The other teams were Fort Zumwalt East, Holt and Clayton. Each team in each division played the other three teams in that division once. The two top teams in each division as determined in this competition move into the quarterfinals.

“Heading into pool play we had played both Clayton very early in the season and Zumwalt East a few weeks ago and had beaten them both,” Penberthy said. “We didn’t really know much about Wentzville Holt but we felt pretty good going into pool play.”

In pool play, Westminster topped Clayton 7-2 and Holt 2-0 before falling 4-2 to Fort Zumwalt East.

“We got off to slow starts in both of those games,” Penberthy said about playing Clayton and Holt. “But we’re able to pull it together and had great goaltending in both.”

Against Fort Zumwalt East, Penberthy said the explanation was simple.

“We just got outscored. We had plenty of chances and just didn’t finish,” Penberthy said. “The game didn’t mean anything to either team as we were both moving on and playing each other in the quarters. I expect the intensity from both teams to amp up this weekend.”

Westminster plays Fort Zumwalt East at 7:45 p.m. Friday at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters with Game 2 set for 7:20 p.m. Monday at Centene.

“We expected to go to quarterfinals so at this point it is about winning the game you’re playing and letting everything else take care of itself,” Penberthy said. “We went to the semis last year losing in shootouts. We went to the finals the two years before so we have some good leadership that has been there before.”

Penberthy likes how his team is looking heading into the quarterfinals.

“Our goaltending has been solid and we have played well as a team,” Penberthy said. “We lost a lot of club kids from last year. However, we are a better team this year as a whole. We are optimistic but know at this point that anyone left can beat anyone else. So the effort, discipline and intensity need to be there every shift here on out.”

The No. 4 seeded Lions are good, Penberthy said.

“They have a couple key players that make up most of their points,” Penberthy said. “Our teams match up well against each other and I expect a good series. We will make adjustments and move on. We have to finish on our chances. And take care of the puck in our own end.”

The Wildcats are glad to still be playing, Penberthy said.

“The goal is always to play in the last game of the year,” Penberthy said. “We have a great group of kids that love to play for each other and it has been a good season.”

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