Cautious optimism is a good way to describe how the Antigo Robins hockey team is approaching its season.
That cautious optimism still remains after a 5-0 season-opening win in Park Falls Friday, against Chequamegon-Phillips-Butternut.
Down several key players, the Robins still put 41 shots on goal, got a scoring boost with three goals from freshmen, and senior goaltender Aaron Converse recorded 27 saves in the shutout.
“Many young guys playing,” head coach Matt Borneman said. “We threw a lot at them in two weeks. They did very well considering, but there is lots of room for improvement.”
Antigo started the scoring just over three minutes in, as freshman Owen Dickman netted his first varsity goal after a nice feed from senior Calvin Jansen.
Two minutes later, it was another frosh, Eli Kassler with an unassisted score for his first point, making it 2-0.
The score remained that way until nearly all the time had ticked off in the second, when the Robins finally took advantage of a power play opportunity, it’s third time on the man advantage.
With Chequamegon-Phillips’ Dustin Krueger in the box for roughing, Paden Michalik found the back of the net, cleaning up a loose puck in front of Team S.E.A.L. netminder Chris Vittone for the 3-0 advantage. Tony Kanda and Kassler were credited with assists.
It was part of a second period that saw the Robins out shoot their opposition, 18-3.
It didn’t take nearly as long for Antigo to light the lamp in the third, this time just over two minutes in, as another freshman, Jack Siegman found a loose puck in the Chequamegon-Phillips zone and put it home for the 4-0 lead.
Kassler and Kanda again assisted.
The third goal from the rookies marked a remarkable night for the newcomers, with Kassler leading all scorers with three points on his goal and two assists.
“The young guys seem to have a knack for being in the right places around the net,” Borneman noted. “They did very well offensively for their first varsity experience.”
The final goal came via the power play, this time a nice shot from Jansen, assisted by Michalik and freshman Ian Brittenham.
It was a night where special teams, a unit which often struggles early, shined thanks to two power play goals and kept Chequamegon-Phillips off the scoreboard on three of their own, including one of the five-minute variety.
“Special teams did phenomenal considering we just briefly walked through a concept the day prior,” Borneman explained. “We have a lot of work to put into special teams yet.”
Converse was busy in the third, stopping 13 shots in the final period to preserve the shutout, the second straight year he has begun the season campaign with a goose egg.
“Aaron played well,” Borneman said. “Made the big saves when we needed him to. Defense helped out clearing rebounds and not allowing many second chances.”
The Robins now have some time to prepare and hopefully get a couple missing players back, as they will compete in the Somerset Tournament this weekend. Antigo opens play against the host team Friday night and then will get either Eau Claire North or Reedsburg-Wisconsin Dells Saturday,
“Somerset always plays good, tough hockey and they have assembled a competitive tourney,” Borneman added. “We are excited for the opportunity.”
Friday’s game is a 6:30 p.m. start.
Antigo 5, Chequamegon-
Friday, Nov. 19, 2021
Park Falls Community Recreation Arena
Antigo 2 1 2— 5
Cheq.-Phillips 0 0 0— 0
Antigo- Owen Dickman (Calvin Jansen) 3:15 EV
Antigo- Eli Kassler 5:17 EV
Antigo- Paden Michalik (Tony Kanda, Eli Kassler) 16:47 PP
Antigo- Jack Siegman (Eli Kassler, Tony Kanda) 2:11 EV
Antigo- Calvin Jansen (Paden Michalik, Ian Brittenham) 4:23 PP
Antigo- Aaron Converse W, 51 Mins, 27 shots, 27 saves (11,3,13) 100%
Chequamegon-Phillips- Chris Vittone L, 51 Mins, 41 shots, 36 saves (14,17,5) 87.8%
Shots on goal-
Antigo- 2-6, 33%
Chequamegon-Phillips- 0-3, 0%
Antigo- 1-0, 0-0 GNC
Chequamegon-Phillips- 0-1, Ind.