By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Two games into the 2022-23 season, the De Pere Voyageurs hockey team is showing its youth.
In back-to-back games on Nov. 25-26, the Voyageurs — made up of players from both De Pere and West De Pere high schools — were outscored by a combined 11-2 in a pair of nonconference losses to Madison West and Brookfield, respectively, at the De Pere Ice Arena.
“We’re definitely a young team, but we knew that coming into the season — we’ll have to take some bumps and bruises,” De Pere coach JP Coppo said. “It’s going to take us playing more games to get more confident and comfortable. We have a lot of players new to varsity hockey.”
Of the 22 rostered varsity players, the Voyageurs have only four seniors — Ethan Knaus, Zach VanWychen, AJ Butrymowicz and Eli Olson.
There are also 10 juniors, seven sophomores and one freshman.
In the Saturday loss to the Brookfield Stars, the Voyageurs gave up a pair of goals in each period in a 6-1 loss.
“The first two periods, without a doubt, were disappointing,” Coppo said. “Even though the guys were working hard, things weren’t bouncing our way — the team was down.”
The Stars scored a pair of goals in the first four minutes of the game, 29 seconds apart.
“We stepped on our own feet there on those two goals,” Coppo said. “We didn’t get much better in the second period but responded better in the third period.”
With a 5-on-3 power play about halfway through the final period, De Pere’s Jake Weckwerth scored off the rebound to end the shutout.
Weckwerth’s goal came 26 seconds into the two-man advantage.
From there, the Voyageurs showed good energy and pressure for most of the rest of the game.
“Getting a goal pumps you up a little bit,” Coppo said. “It was too little too late, but our goal was to win the period, and I think we did that.”
After De Pere goalie Keegan Handrick allowed the early goals, he settled down from there.
The Stars took advantage of the Voyageurs’ first penalty of the game near the end of the first period, which carried over to the middle period — scoring 90 seconds after the teams took the ice after the first intermission.
Brookfield made it 4-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the second period.
About four minutes into the third period, the Stars went up 5-0 before Weckwerth’s goal ended the drought.
Weckwerth went top shelf over Stars goalie Augustus Jones’ left shoulder off assists from Jack Welsing and Butrymowicz.
Brookfield added a late goal on the power play with 27 seconds remaining to end the scoring.
Colin Masek registered a hat trick, while Sean Domaszek, Drew Sparacino and Jack Templeton each tallied a goal for the Stars.
“Brookfield has a nice team,” Coppo said. “Masek and Templeton stood out. We thought man for man, we could skate with them and maybe get the game to be ours, but our problems are associated with our worth — we’ll get there.”
The sophomore Handrick allowed four goals on 25 shots on net in the first two periods, while another sophomore, Dominic Allen, allowed two goals on seven shots in the third period.
De Pere generated 20 shots on goal, including 10 in the final period.
In the 5-1 loss to Madison on Friday night, the Voyageurs trailed 3-0 in the second period before Evan Ott scored on the power play off assists from Casey Coppo and Gavin Steuber.
Handrick stopped 22 of the 27 shots he saw, while De Pere generated 22 shots on goal.
The Voyageurs will play four more nonconference games before opening Fox River Classic Conference play Friday, Dec. 16, with a 7 p.m. game against Notre Dame Academy at the Cornerstone Community Center.
“I think Notre Dame and Bay Port are looking good this season,” Coppo said. “It’s a tough conference.”
By Rich Palzewic