There’s still plenty of hockey to be played this season in the Great Northern Conference, but it’s starting to look like Waupaca is the team to beat.
The Comets picked up a pair of key GNC wins by knocking off Lakeland 6-3 Saturday, Dec. 17, and holding off Mosinee 3-2 Tuesday, Dec. 13.
Waupaca now leads the conference with a 5-1 mark in league play.
Waupaca 6, Lakeland 3
WAUPACA – Three goals separated the Comets and Thunderbirds, but the game at the Waupaca Expo Center was much closer.
Caleb Kiesow’s goal with less than a second remaining in the second period gave Waupaca a 5-2 lead, while Bjorn Asher added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds to go in the game.
“They’re a very good team and I think they’re going to upset somebody in our league,” coach Randy Flesch said. “They came into our arena and put up a good fight. It was 5-3 until the very end.”
Jared Erickson put Waupaca on the board 5:21 into the game off of an assist from Kiesow and Sam Menzies.
Lakeland tied the game with 6:18 remaining in the opening period on a power play goal from A.J. Oungst, but Waupaca regained the lead with a pair of goals in a span of 1:39. Erickson scored off of an assist from Asher, while Jordan Erickson found the net from an assist from Asher and Jared Erickson.
Beau Ash put the Comets up by three with a power play goal 11:49 into the second period, with Cooper Flesch and Jordan Erickson getting credit for the assist.
“That was a really big goal for us because we could breeze for a bit,” Flesch said. “We were tired at times. We played a very physical game. At times, throwing those big hits wear you down.”
Lakeland quickly cut the deficit to two goals, as Tyler Peterson scored off of an assist from Nik Beyer, but Kiesow beat Lakeland goalie Alex Moustakis with 0.8 of a second on the clock to give Waupaca a 5-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
Lakeland didn’t waste any time getting the lead back to two, as Oungst scored 1:55 into the third period off of an assist from Tommy Berger.
Lakeland coach Ken Thanig pulled backup goalie Keegan Wilke late in the game and Asher scored his goal with 10 seconds on the clock.
“We needed one of those,” Flesch said. “We haven’t had one this year.”
The Comets outshot the Thunderbirds 33-24 and Waupaca goalie finished with 21 saves.
“Our boys fought really hard,” Flesch said. “We’re just not quite rolling enough with our third line yet. The score just seemed to stay too close at times.”
Waupaca 3, Mosinee 2
MOSINEE – Waupaca rebounded from a 6-3 GNC loss to Northland Pines with a 3-2 win over Mosinee on the Indians’ home rink.
Hunter Vezina and Menzies scored for Waupaca in the game’s first four minutes. Vezina’s unassisted goal came 1:15 into the contest and he also assisted on Menzies’ goal.
Brodey Pecha cut the lead in half in the second period, but Vezina came up with the game-winner on an assist from Asher with 50 seconds remaining.
Jared Sprink came up with Mosinee’s second goal with 46 seconds to go in the game.
Zach Martin stopped 32 shots, while Mosinee’s Jimmy Rogers finished with 17 saves.
The Comets hosted the Fox Cities Stars Tuesday night, then are off until heading to Medford Tuesday, Jan. 3. Flesch said his team is looking forward to the break.
“We’re banged up a little,” he said. “We have some guys with sore backs and they’re really waiting for this break. They are really hoping it comes quick. Then we get a little softer schedule for one game (at Medford) and then we have some tough tournament play.”
Waupaca will face Mosinee in the first round of the Sentry Classic in Stevens Point at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6.
The Fox Cities game was big because the Stars are in Waupaca’s regional for the upcoming state tournament.
“That definitely will come into play,” Flesch said. “If you win by a lot or lose by a lot, (coaches) will bring that up at the seeding meeting and say how weak or strong you are.”