Comets open tourney with win
No. 1 Pines up next for Waupaca
By Greg Seubert
The top four seeds won their opening-round games of the Great Northern Conference boys’ hockey tournament.
Those four teams include Waupaca, which handed Antigo a 3-2 loss Feb. 4 at the Waupaca Ice & Expo Center.
Next up for the fourth-seeded Comets is top-seeded Northland Pines, which opened tournament play with a 15-0 win over Tomahawk. The teams will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, on the Eagle’s home rink in Eagle River.
Northland Pines already has a 10-2 win over the Comets this season in Waupaca.
“That could very well be us if we don’t go up there with the attitude that we’re going to win,” coach John Erspamer said. “We just had maybe the best three periods energy-wise that I’ve seen all year. That’s what you want going into tournament play. Now, we head up to Eagle River. We’re not just going to call it in and take the bus ride up. We’re going to go up there and give everything we possibly have.
A win over the Eagles would likely give the Comets a home game for the upcoming WIAA state tournament, according to Erspamer.
“We have to play well,” he said. “We’re not just playing for the conference championship. We’re playing for a seeding berth in the WIAA (tournament). We have to do well up there and we have to take care of business in the third game. If we do that, there’s a chance that we’ll be at home. It’s a long shot yet, in my opinion, but it can be done because you don’t know what the other teams are doing.”
Waupaca’s Davis Levine opened the scoring with 2:11 remaining in the first period. Antigo tied the score with 59 seconds to go in the period on a goal from Dylan Lewis.
Jack Erspamer’s goal with 7:55 left in the second period gave Waupaca a 2-1 lead and the Comets added to their lead with a minute remaining on a goal from Vin Nikolai.
“Antigo’s Antigo,” Erspamer said. “They have a good tradition. We knew they weren’t going to lay back in the third period and they didn’t.”
A pair of Waupaca penalties gave the Red Robins a 3-on-5 opportunity with just over six minutes to go in the game and Antigo took advantage with Isaac Wickersheim’s goal with 6:01 remaining. However, that was as close as the Red Robins would get.
“I was very pleased with the effort for three periods, the work ethic and the energy we displayed tonight,” Erspamer said.
Waupaca outshot the Red Robins 37-23 and goalie Hagen Rasmussen added 21 more saves to his season total.
“I’m happy for Hagen,” Erspamer said. “He did what he needed to do. What we asked to do, he did.”