The Rhinelander/Antigo girls' hockey are continuing to rebuild and improved their number of wins in the 2017-2018 season. Last year, Northern went 2-6 in the Great Northern Conference and 4-15 overall. While this season the team improved in both conference and non-conference contests and went 3-5 in the GNC and 7-16-1 overall. Rhinelander/Antigo under head Coach Kevin Sandstrom were able to adjust and fill voids this season and despite low numbers will continue to strive and move in the right direction for next season. Here is a look back at conference action, non-conference games, top scorers, new goalie, playoffs, and what to look forward to next season.
Northern Edge started their GNC season off strong and would rally back after being down 2-0 in their opening conference match to force overtime and tie Northland Pines on the road. Gwen Frederickson would score the Edges' first goal of the night on an assist from Payton Bunnell to pull Rhinelander/Antigo within one goal in the second period. Then Bunnell assisted Madi Losch in the third period on the tying goal. Neither team scored in overtime and after confusion of the new shoot rule, both teams left the ice. Pines earned an extra conference point after winning the shootout prior to their next matchup.
From their opening GNC match, Northern Edge would go 3-1 in conference action which included three convincing wins against Medford and one loss against the Eagles. Combined in the three matches Northern Edge defeated Medford 25-2. But their remaining conference schedule was against Lakeland/Tomahawk co-op and Northland Pines, where the Edge fell in four straight GNC games to finish 3-5 and third in the conference standings. One tough loss they suffered was on February 6th, when they lost to Lakeland/Tomahawk 3-2.
Rhinelander/Antigo suffered four straight non-conference losses in the beginning of the season and would string together a few non-conference wins in between. Northern Edge would also struggle in non-conference games especially nearing the end of the season in January where they fell in three contests to Western Wisconsin, Cedarburg, and Appleton Untied.
To start the season, Rhinelander/Antigo fell in a close 4-3 non-conference contest against Lakeland. From there, they fell in a doubleheader against Marquette Senior at the end of November. They would then go 1-1 in the Kettle Moraine Tournament in the beginning of December.
And in their home Hodagland Tournament at the end of December, Rhinelander/Antigo finished 2-1 to earn second place. Northern Edge would win their opening match 2-1 over Stoughton before falling to tournament champion Viroqua 4-0, and cruising to a 9-1 win over Medford in their final match.
With losing four-year starting goalie Shea Petersen due to graduation, who had a 0.885 save percentage her senior season, the Edge had a few options to look to. In the beginning of the season they looked as they would put freshman Nevaeh Forster in that role but changed after the first game of the year where Alicia Turunen scored twice and also charted an assist. Northern Edge would then change directions and put Turunen in the net for the remainder of the season.
The new role as goalie, Turunen defiantly put work in and would face the third amount of shots of all goalies in Wisconsin at 681 in regular season. She finished the season with a 6-14-1 record with a 0.900 save percentage and 3.45 goals against average.
Rhinelander/Antigo did have to make adjustments to their offensive line, after having to fill the void of graduate Petersen and losing their top scorer from last season to the goalie position. Last season Turunen led the team with three goals and three assists in conference action.
But despite the obstacle, the Edge made their offensive adjustments and had several players step up. On the year, all 15 players on the roster tallied at least one goal or one assist for the Edge.
Northern Edge was led by Payton Bunnell in her senior season and would finish with the team-high of 15 assists and would add 10 goals to her scoring accomplishments.
Another offensive threat was the addition of sophomore Madi Losch, who played bantams for the Rhinelander Ice Association her freshman season. Losch led the Edge in goals with 17 on the season and also finished with six assists.
Kourtney Carrico, another Northern Edge senior finished third on the team in scoring this season and finished with 11 assists and three goals. While sophomore teammate Lauren Kefalinos would add seven goals and seven assists as well this season.
Northern Edge will lose six players to graduation which may take a toll next season for the team, considering it's just under half of their roster. The seniors include Bunnell, Carrico, Padgett, Ashley Adam, Claire Arbuckle, and Gracie Lenzner. Rhinelander/Antigo will return some key players from this season including Losch, Kefalinos, and Turunen.
There has also been a number of solutions for the girls' hockey program discussed due to their predicted low numbers for the upcoming season including trying to bring in another school to join the co-op or possibly merging with another team. But Sandstrom and the Northern Edge coaching staff will look to use that as last resort and will look to heavily recruit to make sure the team has enough players to fill a roster for next season.