The Rhinelander High School boys' hockey team over came several challenges on Saturday night and used a hat-trick from Freddy Wisner to defeat Waupaca. Wisner scored the opening goal and final two to rally past the Comets 4-3 at the Rhinelander Ice Arena.
The Hodags started their scoring off at 9:49 in the first period, when Wisner scored off a rebound and was assisted by Brandon Kolasa and Conor Pequet. But from there, the Comets responded about 3 ½ minutes later.
After Rhinelander's Matthias Schneider was called for interference, Waupaca's Jack Erspamer scored on the power play at 13:14 to tie the game up 1-1. Just prior sophomore Abe Laggis left the ice due to a leg injury on a check and did not return.
The Comets would carry the late first-period momentum into the second, and would score in the first four minutes. Cody Rasmussen put Waupaca ahead 2-1 at 3:46 on an assist from Jack Menzies. Rhinelander rallied back and would score just over three minutes later. Harlan Wojtusik scored at 6:57 on an assist from Kolassa to even the score 2-2.
The Hodags also lost defenseman Danny Zuiker for a short period of time at the end of the second period after getting hit in the ankle by the puck. Rhinelander senior Cole Spaulding was also battling illness, but luckily both Zuiker and Spaulding return to action.
Menzies, Waupaca's leading scorer got his first goal of the night only 29 seconds into the final period on an assist from Brady Johnson. The Comets would hold that lead for about five minutes, and that’s when Wisner and the Hodags rallied back strong to finish the game.
Davis Levine was called for a major boarding penalty after a high hit on Bridger Flory at 4:46 in the third. It also marked the first of four Comet penalties in the final period.
After Alex Hedberg was called for interference only 26 seconds after Levine was called for his major. Both teams were down a player, but that didn’t slow up Rhinelander’s offense.
At 5:30, Wisner scored his second goal of the night to even the game up 3-3 after converting on a 2-on-1 break with teammate Spaulding. Rhinelander would take the lead less than three minutes later and took advantage of Waupaca's Spencer Grams' high sticking penalty.
Wisner would beat Brett Berrens on a one-timer after a series of passes. Flory was credited for the assist on Wisner's game-winning goal. The Hodags also held off a late Comet push, as they pulled Berrens with about 45 seconds left in the contest but was not successful, as RHS went on to win 4-3.
The Hodags held a 33-26 advantage on shots on the night including 21-8 in the final period which made up for the only one shot credited to RHS in the second. Goalie Seth Stafford finished the night with 23 saves for the Hodags.
Rhinelander moved back into fourth-place in the GNC standings and are tied with Lakeland. The Hodags’ are 7-5-0 in the conference and 13-8-0 overall this season.
The WIAA sectional seeding meeting was held on Sunday, where RHS drew the No. 7 seed and will host Mosinee on Tuesday February, 13th. It also marks Rhinelander's first home play off game in nine years. The Hodags will first travel to Marshfield on Tuesday night and then will have back-to-back home games starting Thursday against Merrill/East. RHS will face Mosinee at the Rhinelander Ice Arena on Friday night.