There will be plenty of early-season bonding time for the Waupaca Area girls’ hockey team.
The team, which will kick off its second season of competition Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29-30, at a tournament in Black River Falls, will play 10 of its first 14 games on the road, but will have eight of its last 10 at the Waupaca Expo Center.
“I wish it wouldn’t be that way, but it’s so hard to make the schedule,” coach Tim Guyer said. “You get closer when you go on the road as a team. It’s a way to bond. We have two over-nighters right off the bat, so that’ll be good for a little team camaraderie.”
Waupaca Area will not have one of its top players back from last season, as senior Tasha Smith is playing for Madison-based Team Wisconsin instead.
On the other hand, junior, Mandy Tomlinson, a Great Northern Conference all-conference forward is back, as well as Brianne Huettner, an Iola-Scandinavia High School junior who saw plenty of playing time last season.
“We have Mandy and Bri back this year, which is good,” Guyer said. “They will be as good as any player in the conference. Tina Rasmussen has made some huge strides and our goaltender, Cassie Rasmussen, is back. We lost some people, but we’ve replaced some people, too. We’ll see what happens. I’m just looking at how we finish in February. That’s all that matters to me.”
Guyer is looking at a team with about 13 players.
“They’re going to get playing time,” he said. “We’re going to ease them into it, kind of like last year. We’re going to make sure they’re safe because some of them haven’t played before. Others that have played have really picked it up in a hurry. We have some new, nice skaters that have come in, which is really good, and next year, we’re anticipating four or five eighth-graders coming in. The program will continue.”
Besides Iola-Scandinavia, players from Amherst and Little Wolf high schools have the opportunity to suit up for Waupaca Area. Huettner is the only player this season not from Waupaca High School.
“I know down the road there are people in Amherst that will be joining,” Guyer said. “Hopefully, we can get some more Iola and Manawa people, but right now, it’s pretty much Waupaca.”
Waupaca Area saw its first season end with a 4-0 loss to Brookfield Central in the second round of the state tournament, but the team opened postseason play with an 11-0 win over Beaver Dam.
“I was happy with last year,” Guyer said. “We improved. I’m not measuring what November looks like because I know we’re going to have our struggles early and that’s OK. I want to see that the kids learned something about the game, worked hard, been a good teammate and had fun. That’s been our goal here. We have a wonderful group of girls, they’re just good kids and we’re getting some good leadership from our older players.”
Waupaca Area competes in the GNC with Northland Pines; Wisconsin Rapids/Stevens Point; Northern Edge, a coop team of players from Antigo and Rhinelander high schools; Mosinee; Tomahawk; Marshfield; Lakeland; and Medford.
“The Antigo/Rhinelander co-op is going to be really good because they have some talented players,” Guyer said. “They might be the most talented in the conference. Pines and Point should be good. I have no idea where we’re going to be, to be honest.”
Although it’s too early to say where Waupaca Area will end up in the conference standings, Guyer has a plan in place.
“I’m looking for them to be better than they were yesterday,” he said. “We break the game down and we have a lot of skill work. We haven’t worked much on team stuff yet, but that’s OK because we have to be able to skate, shoot the puck and pass the puck. Our veteran players are working just as hard on those drills as the new players.
“The girls that haven’t played much are going to see that first night that there are a lot of good players, so that’ll be an adjustment for them,” he said. “By the same token, we have some good players.”
Friday, Nov. 29 – vs. Metro Lynx at Black River Falls tournament, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 30 – at Black River Falls tournament.
Monday, Dec. 2 – vs. Antigo/Rhinelander, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 5 – vs. Wisconsin Rapids/Stevens Point, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 7 – at Northland Pines, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 10 – at Medford, 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 13 – at University School, Milwaukee, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 14 – vs. Brookfield Central at University School, Milwaukee, noon; vs. Stoughton at University School, Milwaukee, 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 27 – vs. Black River Falls, 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 3 – vs. Marshfield, 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 6 – at Tomahawk, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 11 – at Lakeland, 2:30 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 13 – vs. Antigo/Rhinelander at Antigo, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 16 – vs. Fox Valley Stars, 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 17 – vs. Green Bay East, 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 20 – vs. Wisconsin Rapids/Stevens Point at Wisconsin Rapids, 5 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 27 – vs. Medford, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 30 – vs. Fond du Lac, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 1 – vs. Northland Pines, 3 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 3 –at Marshfield, 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 7 – vs. Tomahawk, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 8 – vs. Lakeland, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 13 – vs. Appleton United, 7 p.m.