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Wausau RiverWolves junior hockey coming to WausauSubmitted: 04/30/2017

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WAUSAU - The Marathon Park ice arena currently serves as the home for three different high school hockey teams.

But this September, there will be a new team sharing the ice.

Just a few months remain before the Wausau RiverWolves play their first game, and the anticipation is rising.

"Hockey and the sports community in general are very excited about the Wausau RiverWolves moving to town," said Marathon County Parks Administrator Dan Fiorenza.

The RiverWolves are an incoming Tier III men's junior hockey team that's moving from Chicago.


The team's ownership group recently purchased the Chicago junior Bulldogs to move them to Wausau.

That sale and relocation were approved by the NAH3L last Wednesday, which made the changes official.

Fiorenza says the move took a lot of planning.

"We were approached by the team in January and worked really hard with them to work out a deal that had to be done by April 1, and we accomplished that," said Fiorenza.

The RiverWolves have their new name, logo and are working on a mascot.

They also announced they've hired former college player and long-time junior level coach Tim Brownell to be their coach, and his expectations are high.

"Year one, I've told every single player this, I've told [owners] Steve Duncan and Bryant [Black] this. I want to beat North Iowa," said Brownell.

The North Iowa Bulls have won three league championships in the last five seasons.

While Brownell hopes to contend with teams like the Bulls, he says playing for the RiverWolves will be worth more than just wins on the ice.

"Being able to build those lifelong friends, and live that junior lifestyle where all you have to do is worry about playing hockey," said Brownell.

Fiorenza says it might also provide opportunities for those watching from the stands.

"It gives the kids something to shoot for, something to see that next level of hockey that they desire to go to," said Fiorenza.

Last year the Bulldogs had just one win to go along with 46 losses.

Brownell says he's looking forward to turning the franchise around as it moves to its new location.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





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But not many get the chance that Prentice 5th grader Stacey Gustafson got on Saturday.

Gustafson was selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch through the Brewers DARE day program.

Prentice D.A.R.E. officer and Price County Sheriff's Deputy Laurie Zondlo has worked with the school for twenty years.

She says Stacey is the first Prentice student to ever be selected for the first pitch honor.

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RHINELANDER - When Rhinelander's Activities Director, Brian Paulson woke up at looked out his window this morning, he knew softball and baseball games were on the line.

"This morning, everyone's talking about canceling the game, obviously with snow on the outfield. You look at the radar and it looked like at about noon, it's supposed to get about 45 degrees with some sun," said Paulson.

And that sun made a huge difference.

"The sun did just enough for us to get this game in tonight," said Paulson.

The Hodag softball team plays at Pioneer Park. Because the Park is owned by the city, it's not just up to the high school to get the fields game ready. The Parks Department helps too.

"We were able to get this field ready and that's a plus for the school district and for the parks," said Parks Director, Jeremy Biolo.

That determination by the grounds crew comes after a season full of wet, puddle-filled fields.

"Has been a little bit of a nightmare but that's our jobs and that's what we signed up for," said Paulson.

That nightmare of cancelations and re-scheduling multiple games also entails lots of phone calls and decision making by Paulson. 

"Really supportive of a call at the last minute. 'Are we going to or are we not going to get it in?' People appreciate the hard work everyone's putting in out here for the kids," said Paulson.

All the shoveling and re-chalking the field is back breaking work, but it's worth it to the crews.

"I'm just glad to be able to do it. We get these games in and keep everybody happy. Let the kids play, that's what we're here for," said Biolo.

The Parks Department will continue to check the fields throughout the weekend to make sure they're playable for the little league teams.

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"It gives our pitcher the right state of mind, we're up and he can pitch with a lead, and I think it helps him out a lot," said Antigo senior Hunter Kirsch.

Hunter's brother, Junior AJ Kirsch, pitched three scoreless innings to start the game for the Red Robins.
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RHINELANDER - The football world has been rocked by recent discoveries into the lasting effects of concussions.
Rhinelander head coach, Chris Ferge is trying to prevent those injuries to his players.

"That is something that we are very sensitive towards. I would never want that on my conscience, our program, our coaches, don't want to have that either," said Ferge.

And it hits even closer to home with alumni, Mike Webster. He was diagnosed with brain injuries after his time with the Steelers.

"We're proud of him for being from Rhinelander and we do definitely have the benefit every year, "The Iron Mike" with our kids and we do talk about it," said Ferge.

The program even teaches a safer way of tackling.

"The only thing that's going to be safe for a football player is if they do not use their head during tackling."
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"It's to teach kids to understand they use their shoulders, they use their arms, they use their body, they do not use their heads to make a tackle," said Ferge.

But you can't always prevent concussions. The Rhinelander program has to buy new helmets every year to a make sure they're strong enough for impact.

"It's one of the biggest expenses for our football program," said Ferge.

This year they're trying to raise about $20,000 for those new helmets, according to the Hodag Gridiron Club's Go Fund Me page.

The better tackling, combined with good helmets means kids are safer.

"We just want to make sure all of our kids have great helmets and they feel confident going to play football, that they're safe," said Ferge.

If you would like to help the team raise money for the new helmets, follow the link to the Gridiron Club's Go Fund Me page below.

If you would like to register for the fundraiser, "The Iron Mike", that link is below as well.

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The same happened on Saturday as friends and family members gathered for a benefit.

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MADISON - Welcome to the 2017 Badger football season. Fans were able to get their first glimpse into the new year under the lights at Camp Randall during the spring game. Head Coach Paul Chryst thought the spring season was a good one for the team.

"This team started to find itself, whether it be leadership, new roles that guys have played a lot to take on, so overall I think it was a good second phase," said Chryst.

Chris James was one of those players who started to find himself during the off-season. After having to redshirt last season because of transfer rules, the Pittsburgh transfer enjoyed his spring season. 

"I had the same approach every day, just try to get one percent better. I think I did that and I really tried to focus on the mental side of the game, rather than the physical side," said James.

Alex Hornibrook was named the starting quarterback on March 13th. The redshirt sophomore knew he'd have to step up in his new role.

"A big thing for me was just kind of applying what I was working on in the off season. Be it the offense, the reads, pocket movements, and I saw some improvements there. I felt a lot different on the field so I think it was a success for spring," said Hornibrook.

Right behind Hornibrook are Jack Coan and Kare Lyles. Coan is an early enrollee from New York who originally was going to play lacrosse in college. But now he's excited to be a Badger.

"It was definitely a good experience for me to get under the lights at Camp Randall. It was obviously amazing and I made a lot of mistakes but it's a good learning experience so I'm really happy with the outcome," said Coan.

But Hornibrook wasn't giving away any hints as to who will be his backup.

"I think they both did some good things in the spring. I think they're both competing. I couldn't tell you who was doing better but they were both improving every day," said Hornibrook.

Both Coan and Lyles got playing time Friday night. Coan made a mistake when he threw an interception during the scrimmage.

"With Jack, if you're going to throw the ball away, you have to make sure it gets all the way out of bounds. That one bothered him which means I think he's going to learn from that and so I thought both, it was really good for them," said Chryst.

Chryst was right. Coan recognized his mistake and knows there's still plenty of skills to work on.

"Everything. I think I could improve on every aspect of my game. My foot works, my reads, getting to know the play book better," said Coan.

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Mosinee used that belief in the Great Northern Conference victory over Rhinelander.

Every time the Hodags cut into the lead or generated baserunners, the Indians answered.

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