The Waupaca Area girls’ hockey team was eventually going to win its first-ever game.
Thanks to Mandy Tomlinson and Tasha Smith, it happened in front of the team’s home crowd.
Tomlinson scored four goals and Smith added a goal and a pair of assists Dec. 18 in a 5-4 win over the Fox Cities Stars at the Waupaca Expo Center.
It was the team’s first win after opening its first season with seven losses.
There was a time when it didn’t look good, especially after Liz Steinmetz gave the Stars a 4-2 lead with 10:34 remaining in the game. Tomlinson found the net in the first period off of assists from Smith and Brianne Huettner, but the Stars got goals from Shannan Hartel, Caiti Jansen and Jennie Hackinson to take a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
Tomlinson cut the deficit to 4-3 with 8:53 remaining with an unassisted goal and tied the game at the 7:20 mark, with Smith getting credit for the assist. Smith came up with the game-winner off of Tomlinson’s assist with 4:49 remaining and the Stars had few chances to tie the game the rest of the way.
“You like to win a third period like that, especially when you’re down,” coach Tim Guyer said. “You win games in the third period and we did tonight.”
Waupaca Area outshot the Stars 31-22.
“We had some good chances early and for whatever reason, they wouldn’t go in the net,” Guyer said. “The girls stuck with it, kept working hard and played a complete game.”
The team also won 31 of 42 faceoffs.
“That’s domination,” Guyer said. “When you think about puck control and puck possession, that creates possessions for your team immediately, which is huge. The faceoffs were everything at the end of the game. Mandy won three or four right in a row.”
There were also fewer turnovers, according to Guyer.
“The blue lines are everything offensively and defensively,” he said. “Offensive plays come off of both of those areas and 70 percent of the goals that are scored in this game come from those areas, not necessarily directly, but eventually that’s what happens. It’s amazing how that works, but it’s very true.”
Guyer was also to use several players early in the game, which paid off down the stretch.
“We’re healthy tonight,” he said. “We did get a lot of girls in early and that was a big help to us. As long as Mandy, Tasha, Molly (Guyer) and Bri kept saying they could go the last five minutes, I just went with them because they were fresh enough to do it.
“I thought about using (a timeout) about halfway through the third,” he added. “I thought we were a little tired. There was one shift where we got outplayed in that past period. Then the girls rebounded.”
Waupaca Area goalie Cassie Rasmussen stopped 18 shots, while the Stars’ Morgan Talbot finished with 26 saves. Former Waupaca hockey player Rian Lennon, who had three goals in the Stars’ 6-3 season-opening win over Waupaca Area, didn’t score.
Whether the game begins a winning streak remains to be seen, but Guyer is relieved to have the first win in the book.
“I think this is going to help us and give us a little energy,” he said. “The girls are really excited. Even the girls that don’t get in much are happy. We’re going to keep plugging at this and getting better. I don’t know what the wins and losses will be, but I know we’re going to be a better hockey team.”