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Lakeland, Rhinelander hockey co-ops consider merger
RHINELANDER - Northern Edge girls hockey made it through this season with barely enough skaters to have a team.
Lakeland girls hockey had the same problem.

Next season, these rivals might be competing alongside one another, if a proposed merger plan goes through.

"I think the girls would be really excited," Rhinelander activities director Brian Paulson said. "They'll form great bonds with the Lakeland kids."

Northern Edge, a co-op between Rhinelander, Antigo and Three Lakes, had barely enough for a team at the start of the season, and only eight by the end.

"We had two injuries, two concussions and one ineligibility for other reasons," Northern Edge hockey coach Tom Roeser said.

Lakeland and Rhinelander discussed a co-op last season, but the Thunderbirds wanted to try another season skating with just Tomahawk and Mercer.

After not getting any skaters from the two other schools in their co-op, Lakeland approached Rhinelander about a partnership.

"Co-opping with Lakeland now gives them an opportunity to ensure that they'll have a team next year, a full team, and we will also for the years to come," Paulson said.

Rhinelander would serve as the central hub, hosting most of the practices.

"The exciting part about it is that girls will be a little more challenged, have a little more competition in the practice rink, and that should bring about the best in them," Roeser said.

For now, both the Hodags and the T-Birds will have to wait and hope for board approval on their future plans.

"We work very well together between Rhinelander, Antigo and Three Lakes now, why can't we work with Lakeland," Paulson said.

The proposal will go before the full school board next Monday and, pending approval, will be submitted to the WIAA for their sign-off.

Rhinelander has also talked with Northland Pines about joining the co-op, but no formal proposals have been filed. 

Story By: Andrew Goldstein

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