By Vern Cahak
Antigo High School has produced many outstanding hockey players during the 35-year history of the sport here, and Alex Nagel ranks among the very best.
Nagel ended his four-year varsity career for the Red Robins as one of the most prolific scorers in school history. He netted 127 goals and added 116 assists for a total of 243 points. The impressive list included 19 points as a freshman on nine goals and 10 assists. He scored 72 points in his sophomore year when he netted 34 goals and 38 assists, followed with 76 points as a junior in 2014-15, scoring 44 goals and 32 assists, and closed out his brilliant career this year with 76 points on 40 goals and 36 assists.
Named All-Great Northern Conference Player of the year in 2015-16, the scholar athlete has been the league’s scoring champion the last two seasons. During the WIAA state tournament, Nagel was a finalist for the Player of the Year award.
But Nagel wasn’t a one-man show. His teammates contributed immensely to Antigo’s most impressive stretches ever in AHS sports, when the Red Robins posted an outstanding 68-9-2 overall record and won three successive Great Northern Conference championships during which they compiled a 40-1-1 mark.
Junior forward Tyler Husnick finished second in scoring for this season with 58 points on 21 goals and 37 assists. His three-year varsity total was 107 points with 75 of those points coming on assists to go with 32 goals.
Sophomore forward Adam Schmidt was third on the point list with 44 points (20 goals and 24 assists) followed by senior Elijah Wickersheim with 35 points (18 and 17), and Zack Levis with 28.
Like Nagel, Wickersheim and Zack Levis were four-year varsity players for the Red Robins. Wickersheim finished his career with 54 goals and 76 assists for 130 total points. Levis totaled 85 points in that span.
Ben Jansen contributed 27 points on six goals and 21 assists while freshman T. J. Levis had 22 points, Arin Ver Hagen and Gavin Bunnell had 19 each and Andrew Turunen chipped in with 18.
Ben Bartletti did an admirable job minding the goal with a .955 save percentage.
The Red Robins of 2015-16 had the distinction of advancing to the WIAA state tournament for the fourth time in school history. Matched against Eau Claire Memorial, the top ranked team in Wisconsin, Antigo suffered a 5-1 loss to the Old Abes in the quarter-finals. The Robins finished with a 23-4-1 overall record after 23-2-2 marks in 2013-14 and 22-3-2 in 2014-15.
Antigo’s domination over opponents was overwhelming. The Red Robins outscored the opposition by a huge 121-15 margin. Ben Bartletti recorded eight shutouts and gave up just one goal in each of 11 games.
Coach Matt Borneman’s team competed against some of Wisconsin’s elite squads. The Robins knocked off big school power Stevens Point twice, 7-2 in the second game of the year and 6-3 in the Sectional semi-finals. Their biggest victory of the season was a 3-1 decision over Wausau West in the Sectional championship game, which saw Nagel score two quick goals in the third period.
Other prestigious victories were over Superior, 2-1, and Somerset, 7-3.
Two game sweeps were posted over Great Northern Conference heavyweights Mosinee, 5-1, and 9-1, and Northern Pines, 3-1 and 8-1.
The Robins went undefeated at 14-0 in the conference while winning the title for the third consecutive year.
It certainly was a memorable year for Antigo hockey.