The second-seeded Antigo Red Robins got more than they bargained for from the number seven Stevens Point Pacelli Cardinals in their Friday night Regional Final game at the Langlade County Multipurpose building. A third period score by Alex Nagel provided the margin as the Robins fought for a 2-1 win to advance and host the Northland Pines Eagles on Tuesday in the Sectional Semi-final.
The Cardinals rolled into town with momentum from Tuesday night's barn-burner against Merrill. Pacelli trailed the Bluejays by four goals with less than seven minutes to play. Luke Yenter started the rally with two goals just eleven seconds apart, and the Cardinals scored two more to force overtime. Joel Oney needed just 1:15 of the extra time to seal the 7-6 win.
The Robins had a first-round bye.
The Cardinals came out flying right from the opening face off. They out-raced the Robins to all lose pucks. “Pacelli played hard the whole game,” said Antigo coach Matt Borneman. “They dominated us on the boards, and in the one-on-one battles.”
Antigo would strike first when a Cardinal defenseman fell down while trying to coral a loose puck in the neutral zone. Joe Kubacki took the puck and charged in along the right side. He fired a shot toward Pacelli goaltender Joe Fuller's blocker side. Fuller got a piece of the puck, but it fell behind him and trickled into the net.
That was the goal the Robins would score in the first period, despite putting another 17 shots on Fuller. Antigo goalie Ryan Schmidt faced and stopped all 9 shots put on him.
Antigo would dominate the shot count in the second period, but the Cardinals scored the only goal. Luke Yenter stole the puck from Robin defenseman just inside the Antigo blue line, drove toward the net, and fired a shot that beat Schmidt to tie the game at 1-1.
Fuller stopped all 15 shots put on him in the second, while Schmidt stopped 4 of the 5 he faced.
The score remained tied as the teams battled through the first 11 minutes of the third period. Finally, with a mass of bodies in front of the Pacelli crease, Nagel was able to poke a loose puck past Fuller to put the Robins on top.
Fuller stopped another 16 shots in the third, giving him 48 on the night. Schmidt recorded 4 more saves in the period for a game total of 17.
The Robins will now face Northland Pines on Tuesday night, a date that has been circled on the Robins' calendar ever since Antigo beat the Eagles in the dome to secure the second seed. Were the Robins looking past this game toward that rivalry showdown? “Looking over the competition can cost you. We got lucky,” said Borneman. “But my hat is off to the Pacelli players. They played hard and well enough to win that game. But we survived. We finished.”