Northland Pines goalie Brett Wilkins had to make just 10 saves in a 9-0 victory over Mosinee. Wilkins, a senior, has been a part of five shutouts so far this season.
Northland Pines goalie Brett Wilkins had to make just 10 saves in a 9-0 victory over Mosinee. Wilkins, a senior, has been a part of five shutouts so far this season.
The Northland Pines boys hockey team got off to a good start following the holiday break, shutting out rival Mosinee 9-0 last Thursday and Marshfield 8-0 on Saturday, with both games played at the Dome.

Against Mosinee in a Great Northern Conference (GNC) game, Pines started off a bit sluggish from the holiday break, but found a late Christmas present under the tree with the third line of Jake Wilhouwer, Andrew Hartwig and Matthew Szafranski scoring two of the first three goals in the first period to help the Eagles build a 3-0 lead.

“Our timing was messed up from the beginning and our first two lines struggled getting going,” said Pines coach David Cox. “Without missing a beat, our third unit dominated whoever they were matched up against with Matthew Szafranski starting us off with a goal with assists from Hartwig and Cooper Cox. They have worked hard in the defensive zone and came so close all season, but that night the Wilhouwer line shined.”

Szafranski netted his second of the period from Hartwig and Wilhouwer, with a Harmon Marien goal sandwiched in between to get things rolling in the first. 

The Eagles scored three goals in all three periods and went 2-for-3 on the power play which scored late in both sequences as Pines struggled to move the puck to high quality scoring areas right away.

“I thought the kids were prepared for the game, but we just were a tick off all night long. It is the simple plays that we needed to make and we kept forcing the long passes and put pucks into high-traffic areas instead of to open ice,” said Cox.

Pines goalie Brett Wilkins was called on to make just 10 saves for his fourth shutout.

“Brett is starting to play well in the net for us. When we make a defensive miscue, he seems to be right there waiting. I know coach Eric Bolte has been spending more time with Brett and Mitch McCanles in practice getting them prepared each week and it is starting to show in their play,” said Cox. 

Against Marshfield in a nonconference game, it was the big three of Harmon Marien, Gunnar Schiffmann and Brady Snedden leading the way scoring six of the eight goals and tallying 14 total points. Snedden scored the first goal just over a minute into the game.

“Brady had a beauty to start the scoring, patiently waiting for the Marshfield goalie to commit first and firing the puck past the helpless defense set up by Marien and Schiffmann,” said Cox. “Brady continues to lead the state in scoring, with Harmon right on his heels. Harmon is one back in total goals scored in the state, with Zack Maillette and Gunnar Schiffmann closing in to the top 10 players rapidly.”

Pines is leading all teams in the state at this point in goal scoring with 89 total goals.

The Eagles also got goals from Marien, Max Brown, and another from Snedden in the first period to take a 4-0 lead.

“The line of Hunter Bill, Max Brown and Zach Maillette is really starting to jell as a unit at this point and we have been pleasantly surprised with their ability to make plays,” said Cox.

“We spent a bit of time between the first and the second periods identifying what adjustments we needed to make and cleaned up our defensive zone responsibilities and we played our best hockey of the game in the second. We like the way our kids adjusted and came out all business in the second,” said Cox. 

Pines added four goals in the second period, with two going to Marien and one each to Maillette and Schiffmann. 

Wilkins had a solid game in the net, recording his fifth shutout of the season with 18 saves.

“Brett is starting to get into the groove and improving daily and starting to see the results. He made everything look easy today and that is when we know he is getting into his zone,” said Cox. 

Neither team scored in the third period.

“In the third, it was a matter of getting as many players ice time as we could, gaining experience for the rest of the season and looking ahead to next year,” said Cox. “The months of January and February are huge months in the development of our future and putting in a few new wrinkles for the stretch run.” 

Pines, 9-2 overall and 4-0 in the GNC, will host Stevens Point in a nonconference game this Saturday, Jan. 11 at 4 p.m. The Eagles will play at Antigo in a GNC game next Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. 

“We have a week of down time after a very hectic run the past two weeks over the holidays and after battling the flu,” said Cox. “We are looking forward to working on a few areas we see need for improvement and prepare for SPASH on Saturday. At this point of the season, we are 9-2 and starting to find our identity. Our depth has been tested this season several times and it would be nice to have a healthy, injury- free line up with no off-ice drama the next eight weeks.”