Northland Pines goaltender Brett Wilkins keeps the puck out of the net with the help of Eagle defenders No. 21 Alex Sternhagen and No. 12 Gunnar Schiffmann. The Eagles beat the Hodags 6-2 in the conference opener. —Staff Photos By GARY RIDDERBUSCH
Northland Pines goaltender Brett Wilkins keeps the puck out of the net with the help of Eagle defenders No. 21 Alex Sternhagen and No. 12 Gunnar Schiffmann. The Eagles beat the Hodags 6-2 in the conference opener. —Staff Photos By GARY RIDDERBUSCH
The Northland Pines boys hockey team got off to a good start in the Great Northern Conference (GNC), beating Rhinelander 6-2 and shutting out Medford 9-0 last week.

“I thought we played our best period and stretch of hockey of the season in the first period against Rhine­lander (last Tuesday) and really moved the puck well,” said Pines coach David Cox. “We were only up 1-0 after one period, but we managed to put 19 shots on goal and started to generate a nice offensive presence early.” 

The Rhinelander defense packed it in around a solid goalie in Seth Stafford and the Eagles had a hard time finding clear shooting lanes.

“I thought Stafford had an excellent game in goal for the Hodags to keep his team close throughout the game,” said Cox. “But our kids really adapted well after dominating and not seeing the same result on the score board. We were outshooting them 26-5 and had a comfortable 3-0 lead when we were called for a 5- minute boarding penalty which changed the game and momentum. Even though we struggled to get back to 5-on-5 hockey, we still managed to pull away in the third period and close out Rhinelander.” 

Harmon Marien got Pines on the board midway through the first period on a cross-ice pass from Lochlan Siegmeier. Dan Johnson set up the play from the point, then Siegmeier threaded it through to Marien on the back door. 

“It was nice to have Harmon back from an injury after missing a couple of weeks,” said Cox. 

In the second period, Siegmeier scored his first of three goals on a feed from Brady Snedden and Tucker Witt­kopf early in the period.

Less than three minutes later, Snedden scored a goal in transition off a turnover at the end of a penalty kill.

“You could feel our kids start to pull away and create some separation in an otherwise tight game,” said Cox. 

The Hodags scored a power-play goal off a shot that was going wide of the net and deflected off a Pines defenseman past goalie Brett Wilkins, who had 13 saves on 15 shots on the night. 

“Brett had two get past him that I know he would like to have back. On the first power play, we rotated to low in the zone defensively and let them get a clean shot that somehow was deflected and got past Brett who was right there and the puck snuck through a small opening to breathe a little life into the Rhinelander team,” said Cox. “We have been working on our penalty killing units and structure this season and it is still a work in process, but we are becoming more aware of each other and what our responsibilities are.” 

Pines headed to the locker room ahead 3-1 after two periods.

Siegmeier came out firing in the third with a quick release shot on assists from Kevin John and Jack Rhode — getting the shot off quick and accurately. 

“We talk all the time about the shots we don’t take because we always want to hang on to the puck, but in this case it was getting the shot off quickly before the goalie knew it was coming,” said Cox. 

Siegmeier finished off his second consecutive game with a hat trick, scoring on a short-handed feed from Riley McGee and Wittkopf on a sheer speed move, beating a defenseless Stafford on a deke to his forehand to seal the game. 

“We needed that goal to put an exclamation point on a rather lackluster 20-minute stretch of penalty- filled back-and-forth hockey after dominating the first half of the game,” said Cox.

Zach Maillette finished the scoring on a nice net presence tip to record his first high school goal on a shot from McGee set up by Gunnar Schiffmann. 

“We are making progress and moving in a positive direction. Early in the season it is hard to predict what your struggles are going to be from game to game,” said Cox. “Tonight I felt we focused on a few of our weaknesses and will continue to push forward. I was im­pressed with the way the Rhinelander team game-planned and attacked us. I was very pleased with our patience for the most part when things got a little crazy toward the end. Discipline is always going to be a main focus early in the season.” 

Pines also dominated Medford last Thursday, outshooting the Raiders 76-2 in the 9-0 victory.

“They are a program that is rebuilding and the game was played in their end for most of the game,” said Cox. “I give them credit for the way they battled and never gave us an inch. Their goalie had a great game, registering 67 saves.” 

The Eagles played three lines and three sets of defense for the majority of the game. Wilkins and Jack Uhrine teamed up for the shutout in the goal. This was Uhrine’s first varsity action in goal, playing the third period and registering one save. 

Offensively, Tyler Hunt led the team in scoring with a hat trick, followed by Maillette who scored two goals. 

Pines, 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the GNC, has a big week coming up with home games against Tomahawk on Tuesday and Eau Claire North on Friday, both at 7 p.m., and New Richmond on Saturday at 4 p.m.

“It will be our first three- game week this season so our depth and health will be key. All three games look to build on each other and the coming weeks of our schedule,” said Cox. “It will prove to be a good indicator of where we are and what we need to improve upon as the season moves forward. I expect us to be a better team regardless by this Saturday night.” 

In junior varsity action, the Eagles, under the coaching of Larry Snedden Sr., beat Rhinelander 4-2, outshooting the Hodags 19-12. Jake Wielhouwer had two goals and Mathew Szafran­ski scored the game-winner for the young Eagles.

“I really like this group of players we have coming up. They are really turning into a nice team,” said Cox.

There was no junior varsity game at Medford.