With a tight Great Northern Conference (GNC) race between Northland Pines, Waupaca and Antigo, the Eagles got a big 2-1 victory over Waupaca Saturday in the Dome.
In the first game at Waupaca Dec. 7, Pines trailed by two goals and came back with the tying goal with only six seconds left on the clock to force it to overtime.
“We outshot them by more than a 2-to-1 margin in the first game and we knew it would probably be similar,” said Pines coach Charlie DePuydt. “Waupaca’s goalie was first-team all-conference last year and we knew he was going to be tough to beat again. Senior forward Jared Erikson has also been playing excellent hockey for them this season as he is currently in the top 10 leading scorers in the state. With those two weapons on their team, we knew we were going to have to really earn the win.”
DePuydt said the coaches talked in the pregame about being aware of Erikson when he was on the ice.
“Even having talked about the threat he poses, Waupaca managed to get six quality shots on net against us in the first period and he had all six of them,” said DePuydt.
Pines goalie Jacob Stephan got the Eagles out of the period still tied 0-0. Pines had 10 shots on Comet goalie Walker Smith.
“Even though we outshot Waupaca in the period, they had more quality scoring opportunities, but Jacob was excellent like he has been for us all season,” said DePuydt.
At the break, DePuydt said the coaches talked about wearing Waupaca down and forcing them to make mistakes.
“We forced them to stay on the ice longer than they wanted by cycling the puck out of the corners and keeping the puck low in the offensive zone,” said DePuydt. “We had a lot of quality scoring chances in the second period because they struggled with our quick forecheck and physical play in the offensive zone.”
Brandon Hunt scored the Eagles’ first goal with only 34 seconds left in the second period after a dominating shift by Nick Dean, Joe Roach and Colton Raymond. The three forwards kept cycling the puck low in the corner, forcing a Waupaca wing to come down and help. With the wing sucked down in the zone, Dean moved the puck to Hunt at the point and he took a shot which was deflected up in the air and it found itself dropping right over the goalie’s head.
“It looked like a chip shot on the golf course,” said DePuydt. “That was the bounce we needed against a very good goalie. With us controlling most of the period, it took until the last 34 seconds
to finally get a goal.”
By Gary Ridderbusch
Right as the buzzer sounded, Waupaca took a penalty to give the Eagles a power play opportunity to start the third period.
Just 30 seconds into the power play, Zach Kennedy walked the blue line with the puck, firing a shot toward the net which was redirected high in the slot by Bailey Ramesh and beating the goalie on the five-hole to make it 2-0.
With a little more than three minutes left in the period, Pines took a neutral zone penalty which led to a power play goal by Waupaca. The Eagles were then able to hold them off for the win.
“Waupaca played very well in the game and we wish them the best of luck as they will