As reported in the Feb. 8 edition of the Lakeland Times, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has barred the Lakeland girls varsity hockey team from the WIAA state tournament due to receiving three game disqualification penalties over the course of the season.

Two of the penalties were given after Lakeland’s Dec. 14 game at Northland Pines, and one was given during the Thunderbird’s non-conference game against Black River Falls on Feb. 2. 

WIAA regulations prohibit any team which collects that many DQ’s from competing in the tournament. 

In response to the ruling, Lakeland athletic director Phil Updike, who was unable to be reached for comment at the time the story ran Feb. 8, had this to say: “Obviously it’s disappointing. Our kids have come a long way this year. They worked really hard. They skated with a lot of vigor and energy. I think that there’s something to be said for that. Even though we’ve had some things happen, we are very proud of our team. It’s unfortunate that these situations occurred, but we as a team and as a district and as an athletic department, we are going to obviously try to use some of these experiences in what happened to build the program and learn from our mistakes and become better down the road. It’s a learning opportunity for our kids,” said Updike, who verbally appealed the ruling.

According to Tom Shafranski, the WIAA’s head hockey administrator, because of the cut and dry evidence, an official written appeal by Lakeland would have been futile.

“Mr. Updike has done everything in his power to review these situations,” Shafranski said. “He has carefully reviewed every game disqualification and worked with coaches and players to prevent additional game DQ’s. However, there has been no misapplication nor disagreement of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) or WIAA rules with any of the three game disqualification penalties assessed. Consequently the WIAA hockey rule removing the Lakeland girls team from the WIAA tournament does have to stand.”

The WIAA did send a warning letter to Updike after the Northland Pines penalties were assessed letting him know that if another Lakeland player was disqualified from a game during the remainder of the season, the team would be prohibited from tournament play.

“I addressed that with the kids and the coaches, basically letting them know what the WIAA language stated and warned them,” Updike said. “I told the kids in the locker room, ‘I want you to continue to play hard with vigor and do the things that you can do as a team.’ I said, ‘skate hard, but you also have to do that within the lines of sportsmanship and safety.’”

As a result of the ruling, third seeded Lakeland will forfeit the regional final to sixth seeded Rhinelander/Antigo.

“I feel badly for the girls,” Updike said. “We win and lose as a team. We’re going to try and grow from this.”

Lakeland played Rhinelander/Antigo in a regular season game on Monday past deadline. Coverage will be in Friday’s paper.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.