Kate Vizanko, left, and Madi Losch, right, skate in on goalie Anna Maulson during a Northern Edge girls’ hockey team summer practice at the Rhinelander Ice Arena Wednesday, June 26. After officially co-oping this April the Northern Edge has welcomed in its new teammates from the former Lakeland/Tomahawk co-op — including Vizanko and Maulson — for a handful of summer practices over the last two weeks at the RIA and the Lakeland Ice Arena. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
7/3/2019 7:32:00 AM New Northern Edge teammates get acquainted during summer ice
With all of the logistics of merging two teams into one worked out, the new-look Northern Edge is enjoying a brief opportunity to begin the process of piecing together what the on-ice product might look like this winter.
With ice in at both the Rhinelander and Lakeland ice arenas, the Northern Edge has welcomed in its new teammates from the former Lakeland/Tomahawk co-op for a handful of summer practices. Longtime conference rivals, the two teams will become one this year to form a seven-school co-op that includes Antigo, Lakeland, Mercer, Rhinelander, Three Lakes, Tomahawk and Wabeno.
The team practiced three times last week - twice in Rhinelander and once at Lakeland - and has a couple more practice sessions scheduled this week. Time has been somewhat limited with the summer ice only in for two weeks this summer at the RIA.
Numbers were somewhat sparse last Monday during the team's first session at the RIA, but Northern Edge coach Tom Roeser said that's typically the norm as players try to squeeze some hockey into already busy summer schedules.
"Yeah, a lot of different activities and there's some traveling - coming to this rink, going to Lakeland's - I think that deters some girls too," he said.
The on-ice time is important as players from both the Northern Edge and Lakeland sides get acquainted with their new teammates.
"Some of the girls already know each other but, for the most part, it's a new experience for all of us," Roeser said. "We work on skills and try to have some fun. That's the main deal, getting these girls on the ice and having fun."
In addition to the practices, Roeser said he's trying to put together a team to travel to the La Crosse area for a girls' hockey tournament July 20 and 21.
The merger of the Northern Edge and Lakeland programs unites two teams that struggled for numbers and success last season. Lakeland was 7-14 overall and 5-3 in the GNC while the Edge went 5-12 overall and 4-5 in the GNC. One of the Edge's wins was a forfeit victory over Lakeland in the WIAA tournament after Lakeland was deemed ineligible for the playoffs after accumulating three game disqualification penalties during the season.
Talk of a potential merger between the programs picked up steam toward the end of last season and the schools involved worked quickly to get a co-operative agreement in place ahead of the WIAA's April 1 deadline to declare co-ops for the 2019-20 season.
At the time, numbers were projected to be in the low 20s for the combined program and there was some discussion about the potential of playing a few JV games to give the newer skaters on the team some additional experience. However, due to injuries and attrition, the number of girls who go out for the team come November may be only in the high teens, Roeser said.
"Numbers aren't going to be as good as I thought, so I think we're both lucky that we did combine," he said. "Lakeland was looking at 11 originally and they could be at eight for us."
Winter practice for the team will begin Nov. 11. Under the terms of the co-operative arrangement Rhinelander will serve as the primary location for the co-op, with the majority of practice taking place at the Rhinelander Ice Arena. Home games will be evenly split between the RIA, the LIA and the Langlade County Multi-Purpose Building in Antigo.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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