State tournament play for the Waupaca Area girls’ hockey team will begin in a familiar place.
Waupaca Area received a No. 8 seed in its sectional and will open tournament play at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Waupaca Expo Center with a play-in game against ninth-seeded Beaver Dam.
The team returned to the Expo Feb. 1 for the first time in more than two weeks, but came out on the short end of a 4-2 score to Marshfield in a Great Northern Conference matchup.
It was Waupaca Area’s second game without leading scorer Mandy Tomlinson, who went down with a sprained knee Jan. 21 at Medford. Coach Tim Guyer hopes the sophomore can return to the lineup for at least one tournament game.
“It hurts us,” he said. “She’s scored a majority of our goals this year. She’s a great player and we definitely missed her, but the girls really picked it up. It puts extra pressure on everybody. We’re trying to pick up the slack. Maybe this injury for Mandy will help us in the end and make us stronger.
“She’s been in the training room every day getting treatment,” he added. “She’s really working to get better so she can get in there. She’s going to have to skate at full strength or close to full strength to be able to go. She’s not there yet.”
Tasha Smith gave Waupaca a 1-0 lead 2:35 into the game off of an assist from Molly Guyer, but the Tigers tied the game with 1:56 left in the first period on Paige Johnson’s goal.
Kessa Schreiner gave Marshfield its first lead 44 seconds into the second period, but Smith tied the game off of another Guyer assist with 10 minutes to go in the period. Kaylee Geiger gave the Tigers the lead for good with 2:07 remaining in the period and Marshfield’s Nell Eichten scored the game’s only goal of the third period with 8:39 remaining.
Marshfield outshot Waupaca Area 47-17.
The team’s remaining schedule includes winnable games. Waupaca Area has already defeated Tomahawk and Lakeland and fell to Medford in overtime.
“We talked about playing well right now,” Guyer said. “We want to play our best right now. We’re just going to do the best we can. We haven’t had a lot of wins to show for it, but we can play. The girls have worked hard all year and they’re going to keep working hard. Anything can happen.”
Waupaca area already played the top two seeds at a tournament in the Milwaukee area early in the season.
“Brookfield (Central) beat us 3-0 and University School handled us pretty well, but I’ve seen a lot of improvement from when we started,” Guyer said. “We had a lot of new skaters and to their credit, they worked hard to be part of this, they’re getting ice time and they’re contributing.”
The winner of the play-in game between Waupaca Area and Beaver Dam will travel to Brookfield to face top-seeded Brookfield Central Thursday or Friday, Feb. 14-15.
Guyer said his team has already held its own against strong programs.
“This team (Marshfield) is in the driver’s seat to win the conference,” he said. “This wasn’t a bad team.”