Pirates’ hockey looking for a repeat performance
BY RICH PALZEWIC
SUAMICO – The Bay Port hockey team had its most successful season ever last year with a trip to the WIAA D1 state tournament. Despite losing an abundance of talent from a 19-10 team, the Pirates are hoping for a repeat performance this season.
Bay Port’s 2017 campaign ended in the state quarterfinals with a 3-2 loss to Sun Prairie after the Cardinals scored the game-winning goal with 15 seconds remaining.
“Last year was a magical year,” said Bay Port head coach Mike Buchan. “It was the best we’ve ever had here at Bay Port, but that was the last year and this team is new. We lost a lot of talent, but I’m excited about the group we have coming back and the new kids joining the team.
“The thing I was most impressed with (last year) was that we came into the postseason as a No. 6 seed and beat three higher seeds along the way to get to state. That was pretty impressive.”
The Pirates beat No. 3 Antigo, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 1 Neenah to get to Madison.
Similar to what head football coach Gary Westerman says every year about losing so many seniors, Buchan basically says the same thing.
“I don’t even worry about that anymore,” Buchan said. “Every year we are in the same scenario – guys just step up year after year and we pick right up where we left off. They grow physically and mentally and become smarter hockey players. We have a very good program here at Bay Port.
“It’s going to be a year of growing, but I’m not prepared to say it’s a rebuilding year. On paper we lost a lot – and we did – but the incoming freshmen group is very good.”
The list of those departed is long, but it starts with Fox River Classic Conference player of the year in Austin Mikesch, who led the Pirates with 26 goals and 22 assists.
Bennett DeBouche (first-team: 21 goals, 19 assists), Joe Cavil (first-team: 4, 12) and Spencer Challe (second-team: 10, 21) have all graduated, plus the Pirates are dealing with the loss of junior Spencer Kring (honorable-mention: 7, 8) after the defenseman decided to attend a prep school out East.
Bay Port also lost seniors Mike Messerschmidt, Will Kendall, foreign-exchange student Matej Huncik (16, 15), Nate Christy, Alex Piotrowski and Ben Mabry.
Junior goalie Riley Baye (8-3) will be back in net this season, while forwards Caleb Johnson, Nick Messerschmidt, Max Moore, Jack Chilson and Aaron Ribar are all back. Defensemen Bob Tilot, Jake Boxer, Sam Gustafson and Matt Minch also return.
Baye got hot in the playoffs and was the winning goalie in the Pirates’ first four postseason games. The junior net minder finished with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
The Pirates won back-to-back FRCC titles in 2015-16, but lost a 5-4 overtime heartbreaker to Notre Dame last season in the conference championship game. In that Jan. 28 loss, Bay Port had a 4-2 lead with 12 minutes remaining, but the Tritons scored three consecutive goals to close things out. The Pirates came back to beat their FRCC archrival 4-2 in the sectional semis three weeks later, though.
“That was a disappointing loss,” Buchan said of the FRCC championship defeat. “But in the end we came back in the postseason and got the job done.
“It’s hard to predict how things will shake out this year (in the FRCC). You really don’t know until you play teams, because kids grow so much physically. I would say if we play the way we are capable, we should be near the top.”
Notes: the Pirates open up play on Monday, Nov. 27, when they host Green Bay United (GBU) at 8:00 at the Cornerstone Community Center. The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 21 but got postponed because GBU didn’t have enough players.
For a complete schedule, log on to the FRCC website and navigate your way to the hockey schedule.