There’s plenty of hockey to be played before a Great Northern Conference boys’ hockey champion is determined.
Waupaca kept pace with league-leading Northland Pines Dec. 22 by handing Lakeland a 4-0 shutout loss at the Waupaca Expo Center behind a pair of goals from Caleb Kiesow and a goal and three assists from Jared Erickson.
The Comets dropped a 4-2 decision Dec. 15 on Northland Pines’ home rink in Eagle River and have a chance to return the favor, as Pines comes to Waupaca at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5.
Erickson opened the scoring against Lakeland with an unassisted goal 18 seconds into the game, while Kiesow gave Waupaca a 2-0 lead at the 6:57 mark off of an assist from Erickson and Beau Ash.
Kiesow scored off of an assist from Sam Menzies with 3:09 remaining in the second period and Ben Stone added a goal with 5:25 to go in the game off of an Erickson assist.
The Comets had a 29-26 advantage in shots.
“We had plenty of opportunities tonight,” coach Dave Crisman said. “This week (in practice), we did a lot of 3-on-1, a lot of odd-man rushes to try and get the puck on the net and crash the net. A lot of times, young guys look at the leaders going up the ice and they think it’s always going to be there. You miss the net and our defensemen or our goalie have to do something special to help us out. Do we all make mistakes? Yeah, but you have to be able to learn because we need that depth.”
Comet goalie Walker Smith and Lakeland goalie Alex Moustakis combined to stop 51 shots.
“He (Moustakis) made some saves that it kind of looked like he wasn’t going to make and he came up big on some short-side shots,” Crisman said. “We seem to get enough shots on net to survive that battle.”
The Thunderbirds called a timeout with 19 seconds remaining.
“We knew they were going to pull their goalie just to generate a goal,” Crisman said. “Walker wanted that shutout, which he deserved tonight because he made some really key saves for us. When you get that close with 19 seconds left, you want to throw your best at theirs and let those guys decide that goal.”
After nearly two weeks without a game, the Comets will return to GNC play at 7 tonight (Thursday, Jan. 3) in Medford.
“It’s going to a good learning experience, especially for some of our younger kids that have come a long way,” Crisman said. “We have a few days off and then we’re going to go at it strong. I hate to look ahead to Pines, but we have to go into Medford first and Medford’s been competitive with some good teams.”