Having lost at home to Northland Pines in overtime in their first meeting, the Antigo Red Robins needed a convincing victory to lay claim to the top spot in the Great Northern Conference and gain the inside track at one of the top two seeds in Section Three. Matt Wolter scored three times to lead the Robins to a 5 – 2 win in the historic Eagle River Dome to do just that.
The game did not start well for the visitors, as the hometown Eagles struck first. Entering the Robins’ zone, the puck was dumped in wide left of the net. It bounced off the back boards to the right side. An Antigo defenseman circled back to pick up the puck but missed it. Antigo goaltender Ryan Schmidt thought it was coming back out on his right, but it did not. It came off the boards on the other side of the net for an easy tap in goal by Colton Raymond just over a minute into the game.
Antigo answered back midway through the first period when Wolter scored his first of the night on a power play shot from the right point by through heavy traffic in front of Eagles netminder Jacob Stephan. The period ended with the score even, and the shots on goal just about even at 10-9 in favor of the Robins.
The visitors took control in the second period. “After the initial jitters wore off,” said Antigo head coach Matt Borneman, “we played well top to bottom. Our forwards forechecked hard and sustained long offensive attacks throughout the game.” Using that aggressive forecheck, Elijah Wickersheim kept the puck in the attacking zone, maneuvering in the high slot. He passed down to Alex Nagel in front of the Pines net where Nagel made a move to his right, fooling both the defenseman and Stephan. He then roofed his shot to give Antigo a 2-1 lead at 1:41.
A minute and a half later, the Robins cashed in on another man-advantage when Jackson Charlesworth blasted a slapshot from the right point that beat Stephan cleanly to go up 3-1. At 11:10 Wolter notched his second power play goal. Joe Kubacki made a pass from the left corner through the slot to Wolter on the right side. Wolter faked a shot, getting Stephan to drop down, then he went top shelf to extend Antigo’s lead.
A minute later, Northland Pines got one back when Spencer Oberg fired a shot from the left point that deflected off somebody or something in the slot and tucked just inside the right goal post.
With 2:11 left in the period, Pines leading scorer Noah Weber took a checking from behind penalty of the 5:00 and 10:00 minute variety, giving Antigo a chance to extend regain their three goal cushion. Wolter cashed in again with just 12 second left in the period. He kept the puck in the zone and juked around a Pines penalty killer, then walked in on Stephan and fired a shot by him.
With Weber sitting out the first 13 minutes of the third period, some of the life seemed to the Eagles skaters. The action was mostly played out in the Pines zone. When they did manage to get it to the Antigo end, the Robins regrouped and got it right back out and down the ice. Borneman said “Our defense played stellar, not giving Pines an inch to work with. Our leadership shined tonight with dominant play. Wolter had a big game, denying Pines top guys any opportunities and finding the back of the net. Charlesworth and (Zack) Levis contributed big plays and (Ben) Jansen stepped up when we needed him.”
Stephan ended the night with 33 saves for the Eagles, while Schmidt stopped 19 for the Robins.