Abe Laggis skates around a defender during a hockey scrimmage between Rhinelander and Chequamegon/Tomahawk Wednesday, June 14 at the Rhinelander Ice Arena. Laggis missed all of last season with a knee injury. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
6/17/2017 7:30:00 AM No chill in Hodag hockey this summer
The temperature outside might be climbing, but Rhinelander High School's boys' hockey team is getting to work on the ice.
On Wednesday night, the Hodags participated in their first scrimmage of the summer against a team comprised of Tomahawk and Chequamegon players.
Overall, the summer program is scheduled to last four weeks, with five total scrimmages and two practices per week.
"We're just trying to get as many different kids playing with each other as we can," RHS head coach M.J. Laggis said. "We kept mixing the lines up tonight. I didn't do a very good job of that last summer. So I was just thinking about getting as many different kids playing with as many different kids as I could. We switched lines three times tonight, so I liked that."
Unlike some other sports, it can be complicated for a hockey player to skate in the offseason, especially in the summer, due to limited opportunities.
These four weeks allow Rhinelander skaters to keep hockey in mind and maintain or improve their skills.
"We've invited [Chequamegon] to participate as much as they can and Tomahawk because neither one of them has summer ice," Laggis said. "For them to come over and be a part of our practices in the morning two times a week and to be a part of our scrimmages is a really good thing. It makes everyone better and it makes it a more competitive environment."
Laggis admits the RHS program hasn't succeeded in a few years. This year, he believes he has a group of players that enjoy playing the game.
"We have a lot that love to play hockey," Laggis said. "We have a nice little segment of kids in the locker room that are playing on other teams in the offseason and getting better. It starts with our seniors. Matthias (Schneider) and Cole (Spaulding) offer great leadership. Those are two guys that are big in the weight room and they work hard everywhere they're at. Their attitude transcends on everyone I think."
The team is comprised of players that will be eligible to play varsity next season.
That gives a few talented players set to begin their freshman year the opportunity to get a taste of varsity hockey ahead of the season.
Young players such as Max Spaulding get an opportunity to improve, while Abe Laggis continues to bounce back from a knee injury that forced him to miss last season.
Bantam standouts such as Harlan Wojtusik and Conor Pequet are set to begin high school in September.
"For a kid like Harlan - he's made a lot of teams in the offseason - and done a lot of things," Laggis said. "Conor Pequet has a nose for the net and you'll see that. As freshmen, those two will be counted on to produce and I think they will. Abe will be there for us. We have a couple other younger guys in that same position. Max Spaulding is a kid we need to produce at the varsity level this year and he's a big weight room guy and he's working hard. There's another example of him gaining confidence over the summer and carrying it into the season."
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SabatoNick.
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