Jared Erickson and Caleb Kiesow each scored twice as the Waupaca hockey team opened state tournament play Tuesday, Feb. 14, with a 7-1 win over Shawano.
The sixth-seeded Comets will now face third-seeded Green Bay United, a team that defeated Waupaca 2-0 earlier this season, for a regional championship at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Cornerstone Ice Center in Ashwaubenon.
The Comets only led 2-0 after one period on goals from Beau Ash and Bjorn Asher, but put the game out of reach with four unanswered goals in the second period from Erickson, Dante Grorich, Kiesow and Erickson.
“We didn’t really run our breakout that we normally do,” coach Randy Flesch said. “We tried some different things and moved some guys to different positions. Having one of our defensemen out (Drew Simonson), we had to try some new things tonight.”
Shawano’s goal in the second period came from Josh Carlson, but Kiesow came up with his second goal in the third period.
Hunter Vezina and Sam Menzies each had a pair of assists for Waupaca, while Cooper Flesch, Asher, Austin Erickson, Ash and goalie Zach Martin added one each.
Waupaca outshot the Hawks 36-8 and Martin finished with seven saves.
Flesch likes his team’s chances against the Gryphons, who beat Waupaca in January in the consolation game of the Sentry Classic in Stevens Point.
“We’re not on the Olympic sheet (at Cornerstone), so that’s good for us,” he said. “We’re going to fine-tune some stuff and give them a good hockey game.”
Seven of the Comets’ shots against United hit the pipe, but didn’t go in the net.
“I remember hitting seven pipes,” Flesch said. “We’re faster than them and I don’t think their defense was that good. Our defense is better and our forwards on the red line should be streaking past their defensemen and getting some shots. We’re going to look to be a little faster than they are and take advantage of some of their bigger, slower defensemen. We outshot them (in Stevens Point) and if there was one game that I walked away from this year in my head as to why we didn’t beat them and we we didn’t even have a goal, it was that game. We didn’t play bad or go to the (penalty) box a lot. We were tired from the Mosinee game the day before, but when you hit seven pipes, that’s tough mentally on your scorers. They start to think they can’t bury the puck.”
If the Comets defeat the Gryphons today, they would play No. 2 seed Bay Port or No. 7 Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha in a sectional semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 21, at a location to be determined.