Something new is happening in the Great Northern Conference in this 2018-2019 hockey season. The teams have abandoned the traditional play-each-other-twice conference schedule in favor of the model used in the Badgerland Conference: play each other once, and then hold a conference tournament to determine the victor.
Coming into Friday's Game of the Week #6 Northland Pines and unranked Waupaca were tied atop the Great Northern Conference standings with identical 6-0 records.
Unfortunately for the Comets from Waupaca, the Northland Pines Eagles proved to be too fast and skated to an 11-2 running-time victory to claim the top seed in the Great Northern Conference Tournament.
The Comets came out strong and opened the scoring just 33 seconds into the first period after intercepting a Pines breakout pass GNC leading scorer Jack Menzies took the puck into the corner and hit wide-open Mitchel Trzebiatowski in the right faceoff circle for an easy goal on a wrister into the top corner.
However, that goal seemed to ignite the Jack Rhode show for the Eagles, as the senior captain scored three goals in the next 20 minutes to give the Eagles a 4-1 lead early in the second period.
Waupaca would get one back, on a nice move by senior captain Jack Erspamer. Waupaca came in on a two-on-one, and Erspamer took a feed from Eli Bartel and danced around Pines goalie Brett Wilkins to cut the lead to 4-2.
That would be it for the Comets though as Pines would add seven more goals and skate to an 11-2 victory.
The Eagles speed was too much for the Comets, and they swarmed at every opportunity. If the Comets had two defenders in front of the net in the defensive zone, Pines had three forwards. If one Comet was in the corner fighting for the puck, there were two Eagles doing the same. All through the night, Pines found open skaters in front of the net, leaving Waupaca goalie Brett Berrens alone far too many times.
The first round of the Great Northern Conference Tournament will kick off on Thursday, Jan. 24, and includes Pines vs Medford, Waupaca vs Lakeland, Rhinelander vs Mosinee, and Antigo vs Tomahawk.
The second round will be on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and the final round of the tournament will be held in Antigo on Saturday, Feb. 2. Wisconsin Prep Hockey will be in Antigo to cover the final round of the tournament.