By Vern Cahak
The Antigo High School’s hockey team’s stunning 3-1 victory over Wausau West in the WIAA sectional tournament championship game was an incredible accomplishment. The win avenged 7-2 losses to the Warriors the previous two years and was especially satisfying considering that there is only one division in hockey compared to five in basketball and seven in football.
Two quick goals by Antigo record-breaking scorer Alex Nagel in the third period sparked Antigo’s victory over West.
For the fourth time in the 35-year history of Antigo hockey, the Red Robins qualified for the state tournament, ending an 11-year drought. Antigo’s last trip to state was in 2005 when the Robins were defeated in the opening round 7-1 by perennial power Superior. Just getting to state that year was a monumental task. It took three overtimes for Antigo to edge Mosinee, 2-1, for the sectional title. In that marathon, Eric Schroeder, now an Antigo assistant coach, scored the first goal and Nate Mantor netted the game winner.
Antigo’s other two state tournament appearances were productive ones. The Red Robins won their first ever state title in 1993 by defeating Superior, 2-1, in overtime after victories of 4-3 in overtime over Eau Claire North and 4-1 over Madison Memorial. In the title game, Marcus Novy scored the winning goal 16 seconds into overtime.
A heartbreaking 3-2 loss in overtime to Sun Prairie deprived Antigo of a second state championship in 1997. The Robins held a 2-1 lead but gave up a goal with five seconds left in regulation time before eventually losing. Caleb McPhail scored Antigo’s two goals.
Antigo will face Eau Claire Memorial at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Alliant Energy Center, in Madison on Thursday, March 3. The winner of that game will play in the semifinals on Friday, March 4, with the championship to follow on Saturday, March 5.
Thursday, March 3 – Boys Quarterfinals
11 a.m. Game 1: Eau Claire Memorial vs. Antigo Co-op
Game 2: Appleton East Co-op vs. University School
5 p.m. Game 3: Hudson vs. Onalaska
Game 4: Edgewood vs. Waukesha North Co-op
Friday, March 4 – Boys Semifinals
5 p.m. Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs Winner Game 2
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs Winner Game 4
Saturday, March 5 – Championships
Approx. 2:15 Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8