Northern Edge girls’ hockey coach Tom Roeser addressess his team during a practice at the Rhinelander Ice Arena Tuesday, Nov. 12. Tuesday was the first on-ice practice for the program, which merged with the Lakeland co-op during the offseason. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
11/14/2019 7:31:00 AM New look Northern Edge begins practice
It's a new dawn for the Northern Edge girls' hockey program. The Edge merged with the Lakeland co-op over the offseason to create a seven-school partnership on the ice. Tuesday was the first time the new team officially worked together.
There were roughly 20 skaters at the opening practice at the Rhinelander Ice Arena. Tom Roeser is back for his second year as head coach of the program but admitted there will be a bit of an adjustment period with so many new skaters on the roster.
"I'm going to struggle for awhile because I'm terrible with names anyway," he said. "I might even go right down to putting names on their helmets."
Both the Northern Edge and Lakeland co-ops struggled with low numbers last year, and numbers were projected to be even lower this year. Talks moved quickly following the end of last season to get a deal in place and submitted to the WIAA prior to the April 1 deadline to declare co-op teams for the 2019-20 season.
Roeser said combining the teams' resources could have a synergistic effect, mainly because there will be more depth on the team and more competition in practice.
"It will be very good, competitive practices," he said. "That's going to be the difference from last year. Every practice, we're going to have the same thing. That's going to be great."
Roeser said Rhinelander had six skaters in the co-op, Antigo had roughly the same number as Rhinelander and the remainder of the players are from Lakeland.
Even though both sides return a number of players from last year, Roeser has gone back to basics during the first few practices, focusing on skills and conditioning over offensive and defensive systems.
"We're going to work on skills, evaluate skills," he said. "No matter what our talent level is right now, we're going to hammer on skills then we'll have to make some choices."
Monday was the first day the team could have practiced, under WIAA regulations, but the Edge does not have ice time secured at the RIA for practice on Mondays. The players did some off-ice workouts and dryland training at their respective high schools, instead. Roeser said, unless games fall on those days, the team will practice on-ice Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at the RIA.
Each of the primary high schools in the co-op - Rhinelander, Antigo and Lakeland - has supplied one coach. Roeser is Rhinelander's representative. Kelly LeVeque, from Antigo, returns as one assistant and Rae Grosman is serving as Lakeland's coaching representative. Roeser said Grosman has a hockey background, having played collegiately at UW-Superior, and will be an asset to the coaching staff.
"The great thing about having Rae is we can split the ice up," he said, drawing on his previous experience as an assistant coach under M.J. Laggis for the Rhinelander High School boys' hockey team. "When M.J. and I coached together we'd split the ice defense and forwards. She's got a skill set and I've got a skill set. You can do a little more individual teaching. I like that."
The new look Edge will be tested right away as they take on the Central Wisconsin Storm Nov. 26 in Merrill.
"Every team's in the same spot. You don't get many practices before that first game. That first game's a tough one and it's when you're really going to see what you need to work on," Roeser said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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