WAUPACA The season to remember is now the season to forget about.
“That’s history,” Waupaca hockey coach Randy Flesch said when asked about last season’s Comet team that won 21 games in a row on their way to a Great Northern Conference championship. Despite stringing together the longest winning streak in the state last season, Waupaca only played one state tournament game, a 6-3 loss to Bayport/Pulaski in front of a home crowd at the Waupaca Expo Center.
“We’re not going to talk about it anymore,” the second-year coach said. ” I’m not even going to refer to that season. That’s big-time history. We’re moving on to this season.”
Flesch believes there’s good reason to be optimistic about the 2010-11 season, which begins Friday and Saturday, Nov. 26-27, with nonconference home games against Waunakee and Waukesha.
First of all, senior forward Brad Navin, the Great Northern’s player of the year last season, is back.
“He’s going to be Mr. Hockey this year, the No. 1 player in the state,” Flesch said. “We’re very fortunate to have a player like that on our team. He’ll make the other kids better.”
The Comets also have several experienced players to fill the void left by the graduated Andy Yeska and Nick Groth.
“I was thinking, ‘OK, we’re losing Yeska, a big-time grinder who did a lot of work in the corners, and Groth, a smart player, how are we ever going to replace that?'” Flesch said. “I’m seeing kids that were sophomores last year that have been lifting weights and getting bigger and faster. As sad as it is to see (Yeska and Groth) go and not have them, they’re already replaced with the younger talent.”
Instead of playing two lines, Flesch’s plans for this season include going with three.
“I’m going to play three lines this year instead of two,” he said. “We got into close games last year and we were the most penalized team in the state. I think that kept our third line from getting experience. You have to stay out of the (penalty) box, period. I think we’re deeper. We lost a couple of guys, but the third line is all retuning players.
“At the end of last season, we were running those two lines and they were tired,” he said. “We had guys out for 1 – or two-minute shifts. You’ll never compete at this level with that style of hockey. That’s probably one of the biggest things I had to learn. The good teams are playing three lines. Some teams are lucky to have two lines or they play the same physical style of play that I coached last year. If you’re going to be competitive, it’s a must to run three lines.”
Practice began Monday, Nov. 8, with workouts at 6 a.m. and after school.
“There are a lot of sleepy faces in the morning, but they’re ready to go,” Flesch said. “They don’t have to get to know me. They know my drills, they know my systems. We’re off and rolling already and it feels good. We’re a deeper team and I’ve learned a lot. I feel much more comfortable coming into this season. We’re much more off and running than we were last year. That doesn’t guarantee any wins, but we are picking up where we left off rather than waiting for me to coach high school hockey players.”
Flesch also has a full team to work with. Last year’s Comet football team made it to Level 4 of the state playoffs, which meant the football players that also played hockey missed the first week of practice. That wasn’t the case this year, as the football team fell in the second round.
“(Football coach John Koronkiewicz) always puts together a winning team,” Flesch said. “To see him not go further in the playoffs is unfortunate, but it’s kind of a relief to me. There are many years that we won’t get this hockey team this early, so we’re fortunate to have them on the ice. I had them for one week prior to our first game last year. I was trying to figure out the kids’ names.”
He expects his team to contend for a second straight conference championship.
“I don’t know if we’re a favorite, but we’re the returning champs,” he said. “We have to have some respect for that.”
Friday, Nov. 26 – vs. Waunakee, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 27 – vs. Waukesha, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 30 – at Wisconsin Rapids, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 2 – vs. Antigo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 4 – vs. Rhinelander, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 7 – vs. Ashwaubenon, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 11 – at Northland Pines, 3 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 16 – vs. Medford, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 18 – vs. Lakeland, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 23 – at Fox Cities Stars, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 4 – vs. Neenah, 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 7 – vs. Mosinee at Stevens Point Invitational, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 8 – at Stevens Point Invitational, TBA
Thursday, Jan. 13 – at Tomahawk, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 15 – at Waupun, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 18 – at Antigo, 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 24 – at West DePere, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 29 – vs. Northland Pines, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 1 – at Medford, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 5 – at Lakeland, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 8 – vs. Mosinee, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 10 – vs. Tomahawk, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 12 – at Rhinelander, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 26 – vs. Waunakee, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 27 – vs. Waukesha, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 30 – at Wisconsin Rapids, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 2 – vs. Antigo, 4:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 7 – vs. Ashwaubenon, 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 11 – at Northland Pines, 1 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 16 – vs. Medford, 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 18 – vs. Lakeland, 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 23 – at Fox Cities Stars, 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 4 – vs. Neenah, 4:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 11 – at Mosinee, 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 13 – at Tomahawk, 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 15 – at Waupun, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 18 – at Antigo, 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 20 – at Wausau East, 5 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 24 – at West DePere, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 29 – vs. Northland Pines, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 1 – at Medford, 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 5 – at Lakeland, 4:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 8 – vs. Mosinee, 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 10 – vs. Tomahawk, 7 p.m.