The Rhinelaner High School boys’ hockey team and Coach MJ Laggis are optimistic for the upcoming season as they return a majority of their varsity lineup for the 2018-2019 season. And after the Hodags finished with the most wins in a season in program history, they will look to continue to build on their success last year.
RHS finsihed with a 16-10 overall and finished fourth in the Great Northern Conference at 7-6. The Hodags averaged 3.2 goals per contest and had the third best defense in the conference allowing 3.8 goals per game.
Rhinelander returns their top five scorers from last season, but will be missing one of them early in the season. Senior Freddy Wisner will miss the start of the season after having knee surgery after an injury in soccer. Wisner led the team last year with 17 goals. The Hodags’ defense will also be without senior Alex Hedberg for the first give games of the year.
Fellow seniors Bridger Flory and Brandon Kolasa will also be back in action. Flory scored 11 goals and added 10 assists last season while Kolasa recorded five goals and eight assists as well.
The Hodags also return a number of underclassmen from last years’ varsity squad including junior Abe Laggis, sophomore Harlan Wojtusik, and sophomore Conor Pequet. Abe Laggis had 12 goals and led the team with 18 assists and Wojtusik added 15 goals and Pequet added six goals. The three also combined to score all four of the Hodags' goals in their opening scrimmage in Merrill where they won 4-1 over East/Merrill.
While on the blue line, Rhinelander returns junior Danny Zuiker and senior Sam Tjugum who will look to anchor their defense. Sophomore JC Adams and junior Konnor Kennedy also look to play a role in the Hodags' defense. Junior goalie Seth Stafford will return for the Hodags in the net after earning an .850 save percentage and a 3.25 goals against average last season which included four shutouts.
Rhinelander will be put to the test early in the season when the open their Great Northern Conference season at Eagle River on Tuesday, November 27th. The Hodags will first host Chequamegon this Tuesday at 7:00PM at the Rhinelander Ice Arena.
Looking at the GNC competition, the Eagles still prove to be the favorite after finishing 12-1 in the GNC last season. But the next few teams will be battling for the runner-up position and will likely be RHS, Antigo, and Waupaca. But teams like Lakeland and Mosinee also can't be overlooked.
This season the conference will also have a new format to determining the the GNC title. Each team will play a seven-game single-robin schedule that will account for half of their standings while the the other half will be the the result of the three-round GNC tournament that will begin on Thursday, January 24th in Antigo.