By Craig Marx, Editor
With five different skaters scoring goals and Ben Bartletti earning his fifth shutout of the season, the Antigo Red Robins dismantled the Mosinee Indians 6-0 on Tuesday night as the Robins continue to stay hot at the right time of the season and moved to No. 9 in the state coaches’ poll.
The first period has started slowly for the Robins as of late, but at the 13:58 mark of the opening 17 minutes, Brennen Spencer gave Antigo a 1-0 lead with assists to defensemen Andrew Turunen and Eric Langseth.
Antigo owned the second period, scoring three goals beginning with CJ Levis just 30 seconds after the first intermission. Isaac Wickersheim and Garret Held each added goals later in the period to give the Robins a 4-0 lead going into the final 17 minutes of play.
Consecutive goals with just under 12 minutes to play in the third period, one each from Matt Winter and Wickersheim, sealed the game and the win for Antigo, allowing the senior netminder Bartletti to pick up his second shutout in his last two outings.
Antigo outshot Mosinee 41-21. Turunen picked up three points on the night (all on assists), while Tyler Husnick, Wickersheim, Langseth, and Levis each recorded two points in the blowout.
Mosinee represents one of the few teams in the Great Northern Conference that Antigo will play twice due to the new scheduling changes accommodating to competitive play against the smaller programs of the GNC. Antigo will host the Indians on Tuesday, Feb. 7 to mark the end of a four-game home stretch.
The Robins (now 14-5 overall and 7-0 in the GNC) will face the ultimate regular season test come this next week when they host the No. 1-ranked Wausau West Warriors (15-2-1 overall, 6-1 in the Wisconsin Valley Conference).
Enter Wausau West…
Antigo fans know all too well about Wausau West, a team that had gotten the best of the Robins in the Sectional Round of the WIAA Playoffs two years running, both coming as 7-2 losses in the stretch of 2013-2015. The Robins, behind a senior-laden team last season, were able to push aside the Warriors in a 3-1 win in that very same Sectional Round to open the path to the WIAA State Tournament.
In the epic win over West last year at Greenheck, Turunen, a senior defenseman that currently has 14 points through 19 games this season (four goals, 10 assists), scored early at the 1:32 mark of the first period to give Antigo a 1-0 lead. West fought back, however, as Christian Bardarson evened the game with a goal at the 10:54 mark before the first intermission.
The second period went scoreless as the Robins were handed a 5-on-3 power play opportunity that they could not convert. The third period belonged to now-departed forward and Wisconsin Mr. Hockey finalist Alex Nagel, whose back-to-back goals midway through the frame gave Antigo the win and its first trip to state since 2005.
While it seems as though there is a predisposition for Antigo and Wausau West to meet up in the playoffs, with sectional realignments this year the Robins will play their way through Green Bay instead. The regular season matchups of the Robins and Warriors in Coach Matt Borneman’s era are few and far between, limited to a 5-2 loss in Wausau last season as the second to last game of the year.
The Warriors (15-2-1) enter Week 8 of the 2016-17 season ranked No. 1 in the state, with the team’s two losses coming against the venerable programs of Stevens Point and University School of Milwaukee followed by a tie to Eau Claire Memorial – the team that defeated Antigo in the first round of the state tournament last season.
West would later go on to defeat Eau Claire Memorial 7-4 in a home tournament this past weekend. Other key wins for Coach B.J. Brandt’s team include two victories over Superior (7-1, 4-1), Neenah-Menasha-Hortonville (2-0), and Stevens Point (7-2 to split the series at a game apiece).
Key players to look out for include junior forward Josh Bohlin, who leads the team with 35 points (24 goals, 11 assists), while forwards Nick Techel and Bardarson tie for second with 21 points each. Jacob Warnke has seen the majority of time in net for West this season with 16 starts, in which he has compiled .907 save percentage and a 1.68 goals allowed average in that time.
While the perennially-tough Warriors look to be so once again, it is refreshing to be able to host West at Antigo’s own Langlade County Multi-Purpose Building. Coach Borneman is treating it as another game on his team’s already grueling schedule.
“[It’s] just another game. Our goal every game is to get better, so after our 24th game we have the best possible version of our team heading into the playoffs,” Borneman said. “The team has faced stiff competition this season multiple times. It’s just another game to continue working to get better.”
“We like to look at each game as an opportunity – an opportunity to work on whatever our points of emphasis are for that particular game,” Borneman added. “[For] strong goalies, we may work on second chance goals. A strong offense we may concentrate on our defensive zone coverage. A strong stretch team we may look into shoring up our neutral zone play. Each game presents opportunities to become a better all around team.”
The game against West comes after a slight break for the Robins, with the puck dropping at the Multi-Purpose Building in Antigo at 7 PM on Tuesday, Jan. 31.