/ Articles / Edge co-op comes together for successful season
The Northern Edge girls’ hockey co-op had a new look during the 2019-20 season. It also had more success than in recent years.
The Edge, which was previously a co-op between Rhinelander, Antigo and Three Lakes high schools merged with the Lakeland/Tomahawk co-op in the offseason — with both programs citing low numbers.
Together, the team had a roster of roughly 20 skaters and found the win column with more regularity than in years past. The team finished with a 13-9-0 record, which marked the first time since the 2015-16 season the Edge finished both above .500 and with double-digit wins.
Unfortunately for the Edge, that momentum did not carry into the WIAA playoffs. The team lost its final two regular season games before getting eliminated by the Bay Area Ice Bears 4-1 in the regional finals.
Here are five storylines from the recently completed season.
The process of merging the two programs, which had been Great Northern Conference rivals until this year, took some time.
On one hand there were the logistics of practices and games. The majority of the team’s practices took place in Rhinelander, which was the most central location of the seven schools that five schools ended having participants in the co-op. Then there was the matter of developing chemistry among the players.
“We had some growing pains, but midway through the season the girls started doing some unselfish things off the ice,” coach Tom Roeser said. “It’s kind of translated to them playing better as a team on the ice. It was a new experience for all these girls. I’m proud of them. They had a lot more traveling to do, a couple long weekends and the Antigo and Lakeland girls had to travel for practice all season. We had a very low absence rate, so I was proud of them.”
Home for the holidays
The Edge really started to come together over the Christmas holiday as it hosted the Hodagland in Rhinelander.
Because the team had extra depth, and because only six other teams were involved, the Edge split into Edge-1 and Edge-2 teams, with some crossover between players. The end result was a 5-1-0 record between the two squads with the Edge-1 team winning all three of its games — including 2-1 wins over Viroqua and Stoughton — while the Edge-2 squad lost only to Viroqua, while earning wins over Medford and Beaver Dam.
“They dug deep,” Roeser said following the tournament. “We’re actually talking about six games because we needed to get another team into this tournament. A lot of these girls have a lot of periods under them right now. We’re taking tomorrow off, getting some rest. They deserve.”
The Hodagland tournament set the Edge up for a strong month of January. Though the month began with losses to Central Wisconsin and Northland Pines, the team knocked off Medford Jan. 13, which kicked off an eight-game winning streak that included a 1-0 victory in Antigo over Wisconsin Valley Union.
But the cherry on top for the Edge during their run came Jan. 27 at Northland Pines. After falling to the Eagles 7-1 and 6-0 in their first two meetings, the Edge turned the tables and stunned Northland Pines 4-1 at the Eagle River Sports Arena.
“They just found a different energy,” Roeser said after the game. “Pines has that one really solid line and they tried to use them. They were matching us up in the first two period. We rolled quickly two lines because we were subbing in on that first line to give them a little break and, hopefully, wear Pines out.”
Merging with the Lakeland/Tomahawk co-op brought the Edge a needed shot of depth this year, and many of the new additions made an immediate impact.
Juniors Izzy Boyer and Kate Vizanko added a scoring punch for the Edge. Boyer finished the season with 13 goals and 12 assists while Vizanko had 12 goals and 11 helpers
Two Lakeland freshman — Caitlyn Fesnick and Maria Gironella — added depth at defense for the Edge. Fesnick chipped in three goals and nine assists while Gironella had two goals and seven helpers.
“Her work ethic, she just jumped in and fit right in,” Roeser said of Gironella, who won the team’s hustle award. “You couldn’t tell she was a freshman. A lot of freshmen jump in a program and you don’t really know where they’re going to fit in, but she jumped in and it was like she’s been on this team for three years.”
Finally junior Anna Maulson gave the Edge extra depth in goal as she and senior Alicia Turunen were in a timeshare for playing time at the position. Maulson went 6-5-0 on the season with a 2.96 goals against average, a .911 save percentage and one shutout.
Paulson’s addition allowed Turunen to periodically skate out and play forward for the Edge. She finished the season with three goals and three assists.
Looking ahead, the team bids farewell to five seniors including notable four-year contributors Turunen, Madi Losch and Lauren Kefalinos.
Losch was the team’s leading scorer this year with 16 goals and 10 assists as she earned honorable mention All-State from the Wisconsin Girls Hockey Coaches Association for the second consecutive year. Turunen, a three-time Northern Edge team MVP, was 7-4-0 in goal this season with a 2.34 goals against average, a .927 save percentage and a shutout.
“That’s the toughest part,” Roeser said following the team’s season-ending loss to Bay Area. “We were certainly lucky last year. We didn’t lose anyone, so you don’t have this heartbreak. We didn’t have it last year and now we do and we’re really going to miss the quality players and character we’re going to lose.”
Luckily for the Edge, Losch is the lone scorer among the team’s top eight who will not return and the team will be covered next year in goal as Maulson prepares to take over the position on a full-time basis.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at [email protected].