- The scoreboard said Rhinelander boys hockey's 5-1 loss to Waupaca Saturday night was more of the same.
The coaches are saying something different after the Great Northern Conference opener.
"The thing that I like is for the first time since the first game of the year, there's a lot of energy in the locker room. The kids were super positive to each other, and that makes me happy because I think we can win some hockey games," said head coach M.J. Laggis. "I realize that at 0-5 you could scoff or laugh at that, but I really believe we're going to win some hockey games before we're done."
While the Hodags did drop to 0-5-0 and 0-1-0 in the GNC, statistics reflect Rhinelander's improvement. They were within three shots on goal at 26-23.
"We outshot them in the second and third. We're playing better and have to keep getting better," Laggis said.
Freshman Alex Littleton played the entire game in goal and stopped 21 of the shots.
"I think Alex did a nice job, but we're in a situation right now where we're pretty much going back and forth between goalies. He got it tonight. (Jake) Arno will get it Tuesday night. That's how we're going to roll for a while," Laggis said.
Chris Hagen notched the Hodags' only goal. Trailing 1-0 in the first period, Hagen picked the pocket of a Comet blueliner and squeezed a lefty wrister past Waupaca goalie Walker Smith to tie the game.
The Comets, however, would score four unanswered goals after that – one more in the first, two in the second, and one in the third.
Jerry Erickson had a pair of goals and an assist to move to 12 points on the year for 3-2-1 Waupaca. Frankie Ellingson also had two goals.
Even in the loss, the pros outweighed the cons for Laggis.
"The thing that I liked the most tonight is that we're playing with a lot of intensity, a lot of scrappiness. You can see that we're young, you can see we're immature, but we're catching passes better, and we're playing hard in the offensive zone, and we're generating more shots," he said.
Laggis said he expects Northland Pines to go to State this year. The Hodags will get a chance to upset the Eagles Tuesday at Rhinelander Ice Arena. Listen to the game with Adam Matyska on HodagSports.com. The puck drops at 7pm.
Story By: Ben Meyer