Menzies, Smith score twice
By Greg Seubert
After coming up short in its last game, Waupaca boys’ hockey coach John Erspamer wanted to see how his team would rebound on its home ice.
He didn’t have to wait long to find out.
The Comets scored five goals in the first period and went on to hand Medford a 7-4 Great Northern Conference defeat Jan. 31 at the Waupaca Ice & Expo Center. The win came three days after the Comets fell to Rhinelander 3-2 to drop to 6-4 in the conference standings.
“We came back with some good intensity in that first period,” Erspamer said. “We were pretty much all over them at first and it carried into the second period. The third period, penalties and moving guys around on lines kind of took a little of the steam away, but we did enough up front to come out with the win.”
Max Menzies scored twice and added a pair of assists in the first period as the Comets outshot the Raiders 15-4 and outscored them 5-1.
Jack Menzies opened the scoring 5:19 into the game off of an assist from Max Menzies and Mitchell Trzebiatowski and Hunter Smith added an unassisted goal less than a minute later to give the Comets a 2-0 lead.
Medford cut the lead in half with 9:43 to go in the period on a goal from Sawyer Scholl, but Cody Rasmussen scored 43 seconds later off on assist from the Menzies brothers. Max Menzies added an unassisted goal to make it 4-1 and capped the scoring with 5:08 remaining in the period, with Jack Menzies and Rasmussen getting credit for the assist.
Jack Schafer scored for Medford 2:59 into the second period, but Dakota Johnson’s unassisted goal at the 5:22 mark gave Waupaca a four-goal lead.
Smith’s second goal off of an assist from Max Menzies and Eugene Pliska made it 7-2, but Medford answered with 33 seconds to go in the period on Schafer’s second goal.
Dylan Hraby scored the only goal in the third period, but the Raiders never got any closer the rest of the way.
Waupaca ended up outshooting Medford 39-16 and Max Menzies finished with two goals and three assists.
“More than his point total, he’s a heck of a leader,” Erspamer said. “If you could coach a team of Max Menzies, you’d be very happy and you’d win a lot. I wish he wasn’t a senior, but he is.”
Erspamer said he knew the Comets would be able to take advantage of their team speed.
“We told the guys up front after warmups that we were much faster than they were,” he said. “We always say speed kills. I said, ‘Let’s use our legs in the first period and let’s see if we can get them on their heels.’ I thought we did that. We were putting the pucks in the net. I’m not sure what the shots were, but it was a lot to a little, I know that.”
Goalie Ryan Kocovsky, who has split time with Brett Berens this season, finished with 12 saves.
“Goaltending’s a tough position and you have to be mentally strong,” Erspamer said. “Ryan battled again tonight to the end. He got a win and that means something. Anytime you’re a senior and there’s a few games left in your career, you keep battling. I know he wants a couple of them back, but he stopped a few breakaways in the second and third period. He did what he had to do for us to do and that’s all I can ask.”
Waupaca will travel to Tomahawk Thursday, Feb. 2 for a Great Northern rematch with Tomahawk before hosting Bay Port at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3.
“I think momentum’s the big thing,” Erspamer said. “Seeding (for the WIAA state tournament) will be whatever it is. You have to beat everybody to get to where you ultimately want to go anyway. Momentum going into the playoffs is more important than the actual number of the seed.”