SPASH take advantage of power play chances
By Greg Seubert
A Community Parks Hockey Classic championship wasn’t in the cards for the Waupaca boys’ hockey team.
A trip to the tournament’s championship game was, however.
The Comets faced state-ranked Stevens Point Jan. 7 in the championship game at the K.B. Willett Arena in Stevens Point and came out on the short end of a 7-2 score after opening the tournament Jan. 6 with an 8-3 win over Mosinee that counts in the Great Northern Conference standings.
Waupaca also fell to D.C. Everest 3-0 Jan. 3 in Schofield.
Stevens Point 7, Waupaca 2
The Panthers came up with three power play goals and a hat trick from Cole Caufield while improving to 13-1 on the season.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t get an opportunity all the time to play one of the best teams in the state,” coach John Erspamer said. “You have to take advantage of it for 51 minutes. I felt that they did that.”
The Panthers took a 2-0 lead into the second period on goals form Jake Minch and Chase Miller, but Waupaca’s Jack Menzies cut the lead in half in the second period with a power play goal off of Hunter Smith’s assist.
Caufield, however, found the net later in the period on shorthanded and power play goals to give SPASH a 4-1 lead at the second intermission.
Caufield completed his hat trick 22 seconds into the third period on his second power play goal to make it 5-1, but Cody Rasmussen scored an unassisted goal for Waupaca’s second score.
The Panthers then capped the scoring on goals from Carter Smigaj and Jarret Jones and ended up outshooting the Comets 45-16.
The teams combined for 17 penalties, including eight from Waupaca.
“Penalties are penalties,” Erspamer said. “We had a broken stick, running into the goalie by accident, things that just happen during games. They seemed to happen today. When we were on the power play, we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities. We had plenty of opportunities as well. You have to play a team five-on-five. Five-on-five, we played with them head-to-head.”
Goalie Brett Berrens finished with 38 saves against a faster team that also had more depth, according to Erspamer said.
“As far as moving the puck in the offensive zone, they moved it without having to cycle it, which was important,” he said. “That means the puck was always in front of the net. Brett had to move all night long. I know there are a few that he would want back, that he thought he should have and I would agree with him. He played hard right up until the end and that’s what you want out of your guys.
“Their fourth line was out on the ice a few times in the third period and their really wasn’t a big dropoff there,” he added. “They’re good for a reason and they’re deep. Our guys battled like crazy and that’s really all you can ask of them. The one really bright side is I thought our defensemen, old and young, played pretty well.”
Waupaca 8, Mosinee 3
Four unanswered goals in the third period broke open a game that was 4-3 after two periods.
Bruce Sternweis put the Comets on the board in the first period, Zeth Pyan tied the game for the Indians, but Max Menzies gave Waupaca a 2-1 lead.
The teams traded goals in the second period. Max Beste’s goal tied the game at 2-2, Dawson Bohm scored for Waupaca, Michael Alfonso scored for Mosinee and Nick Grams gave Waupaca the lead for good at 4-3 with 21 seconds remaining in the period.
Eugene Pliska, Smith, Max Menzies and Rasmussen scored for Waupaca in the third period and Waupaca outshot the Indians 40-23.
Max Menzies finished with two goals and an assist; Pliska had a goal and three assists; Smith had a goal and two assists; Bohm had a goal and an assist; Grams, Rasmussen and Sternweis had a goal; and Jack Menzies had two assists.
D.C. Everest 3, Waupaca 0
The Evergreens outshot the Comets 40-15 to pick up the nonconference win.
Dalton Weller and Seth Jaglinski scored in the second period and Ryan Begley made it 3-0 with a goal in the third.
Waupaca will return to Great Northern play at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, by hosting Antigo at the Waupaca Ice & Expo Center. The Red Robins are 10-5 on the season, will bring a 5-0 conference record into the game and already have a 6-2 win over the Comets this season. Meanwhile, the Comets are 8-5 overall and 4-2 in league play.
“I’ve said it all along that we have to hold serve at home,” Erspamer said. “We have an opportunity to get them on our ice. We’ve been doing a lot of traveling. Eleven of the first 13 games have been on the road. It’s going to be nice to get back to the Expo.”