Outstanding goalie play and a one-two scoring punch added up to a tournament championship for the Waupaca boys’ hockey team.
Walker Smith stopped 93 of the 97 shots he faced and Frankie Ellingson and Jared Erickson scored all of the Comets’ goals in wins over Stevens Point and Mosinee at the Community Parks Hockey Classic at the K.B. Willett Arena. Waupaca handed Stevens Point a 4-2 defeat Jan. 4 in the championship game and opened the tournament Jan. 3 with a 5-2 Great Northern Conference win over Mosinee.
Waupaca 4, Stevens Point 2
The teams entered the third period tied at 2-2, but Erickson broke the tie with an unassisted power play goal with 1:46 to go in regulation and Ellingson added an empty-net goal with 24 seconds remaining.
“It was even going into the last period,” coach Dave Crisman said. “They outshot us by a little bit, but yet we ended up getting things done and that’s the key.”
Stevens Point’s Brock Caulfield opened the scoring 5:27 into the game with a short-handed goal off of an assist from Kobe Keller. Erickson tied the game four minutes later with an unassisted goal and Ellingson added another unassisted goal with 6:27 remaining in the first period.
Caulfield tied the game less than two minutes into the second period off of an assist from Keller and Jake Jaworski and the score remained 2-2 until Erickson’s second goal.
The Panthers outshot the Comets 52-21.
“There were two nice goaltenders on the ice,” Crisman said. “Sure enough, that’s what it really came down to.”
“It’s definitely disappointing to lose and to lose at home in your tournament,” Stevens Point coach Dan Francis said. “Any time you play a good goalie, you need to take away his vision, get traffic in front of him and look for rebounds. We put 52 shots on net. We just need to find a way to put more in the back of the net.”
Crisman expects Erickson and Ellingson to score their share of goals this season.
“We’ve got other guys that can do the job, too,” he said. “This will breed a lot of confidence for a lot of the young guys that maybe aren’t scoring right now.”
On the other hand, Smith lived up to his reputation as one of the area’s top goalies.
“He looked like Walker,” Crisman said. “He has a high level confidence and we saw that tonight. Walker’s right there for the guys.”
The Comets have had their share of close games this season, including an overtime loss earlier this season at home to Northland Pines.
“We had the same lesson against Pines,” Crisman said. “We had the lead and gave one up, but we battled better (against Stevens Point). We got down low, got sticks in the lane, chipped it out and it worked out our way.”
It was the second time the Comets had won the tournament championship in the event’s 16 years.
“We got better mentally because of winning a good, close game,” Crisman said. “We needed that, but we also need to get better. We needed to make a point with some of the guys that aren’t performing the skills that we believe they have. This is going to go a long way in helping us teach them the importance of a lot of things.”
Waupaca 5, Mosinee 2
Waupaca improved to 3-2 in conference play with a win over the Indians.
The teams combined for five goals in the first period alone. Ellingson opened the scoring with an unassisted goal 1:16 into the game, but power play goals from Austin McCarthy and Zach Pyan in less than a three-minute span gave the Indians a 2-1 lead. Ellingson tied the game off of an assist from Elliot Crisman and Erickson gave Waupaca the lead for good with 3:36 remaining in the period, with Drew Simonson and Ben Stone getting credit for the assist.
Ellingson finished his hat trick 6:23 into the second period off of an assist from Stone and Erickson found the net four minutes later off of an assist from Zane Johnson.
The Indians outshot the Comets 45-17 and Smith stopped all 29 of Mosinee’s shots in the second and third period.
“Walker Smith is a very good goaltender,” Mosinee coach Jordan Schmidt said. “We knew we would have to get a lot of shots on him, but sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due,” Schmidt said. “We knew about Jared Erickson, who could very well be the best player in the conference. We knew we had to shut him down and keep him from killing us, but he’s hard to defend. (Ellingson) was kind of a sleeper for us, so we didn’t really game plan for him.”
The Comets’ home game with Ashwaubenon scheduled for Jan. 7 has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6. Waupaca will host Medford at 7 tonight (Thursday, Jan. 9) before heading to Minocqua Saturday, Jan. 11, for a 7 p.m. Great Northern matchup with Lakeland.