In the most lopsided contest of the Hodags fast aging season, the soccer team was at home on Tuesday night challenging Great Northern Conference foe Antigo. Antigo has been having a bit of a tough year, but soccer coach Dan Millot had been instructing his kids for weeks to always be ready for a battle. And battle they did as they sent the Red Robins home on the wrong end of an absolutely dominant victory 10-0.
Opening the game up the Hodags applied a fierce offensive pressure that would become the theme for the entire contest. Rhinelander’s first goal came just 1:47 into the game when senior Ben Franson found Nick Wright open in front of the goal for the score. The roles reversed just 49 short seconds later as Nick Wright passed the ball to Ben Franson for the second score of the contest. Forward Nate Twedten was hit by Nick Wright at the 9:17 mark, and Twedten took a boot that found the net. Nick Wright also fed the ball to senior Braxton Hjelle who scored 14:05 into the game, the first of his three goals. Hjelle was returning from a leg injury and scored a hat trick for the Hodags.
That combination worked again when Wright hooked up with Hjelle just less than three minutes later for Braxton’s second goal, Wright’s fourth assist, and the team’s fifth goal. Sensing his team’s domination, the Hodags then seemed to take their foot off the gas a little bit as head coach Dan Millot brought in his JV players for much of the late first half giving them valuable game experience during live action. The final goal of the first half came at 35:27 mark when Luke Wirth took an assist from Ryan Barr and found pay dirt.
“When a team gives you so much to exploit it’s hard to hold the kids back once in a while,” explained Millot. “If you look at the shots in the first half we could have had 15 goals in the first. Part of that is our team’s composure. Against good teams you can’t have bad shots, you’ve got to get the ball in the net.”
And get the ball in the net they did. Just like the first half the Hodags came out swinging to open play in the second half. Nick Wright notched his fifth assist of the evening as he dished the ball to Braxton Hjelle at the 50:15 mark. It was Braxton’s third goal, completing the hat trick. Nick Wright then scored for the second time in the game as Brad Kenote fed him a beautiful pass to put the Hodags up 8-0. The Hodags were on a roll and every player felt it.
The next goal was off a pristine corner kick from Nate Twedten as he launched the ball into the penalty box. Rhinelander defender Colton Volkmann literally rose to the occasion to head the ball into the net. Up 9-0 Rhinelander wasn’t finished. The Hodags scored their final goal off the foot of JV player Mason Shallow as he drilled a shot that found the back of the net in the 60th minute of play. With an extremely decisive 10-0 advantage, the game was called and the Hodags were victorious 10-0.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Coach Millot. “Regardless of the game it’s a conference win and we look to keep getting after it opening up the second half of the season on Thursday. Tonight was a good team effort.”
When discussing our Printpack Player of the Game Braxton Hjelle, who had a hat trick in his first varsity contest since returning from an offseason injury, Coach Millot was happy with what he saw.
“It was nice to have Braxton back. He isn’t at a hundred percent yet but he is getting there. It was a good game for him to open up with. He got quality minutes and got some goals and experience under his belt.”
Coach Millot also thought Brad Kenote and Eric Fabich had solid outings. When questioned about his decision and ability to let the JV see the field, Millot was happy he received the opportunity.
“This is the type of game where you can give the JV players that experience,” he said. “This Antigo team is young. It was a chance to get our guys in front of the home fans and we have tried to get everyone some time before Mason put that tenth ball in the back of the net.”
The Hodags out shot Antigo 25-5 and Conar Labelle had 4 saves. The next game the Hodags play is a conference battle in Mosinee on September 13. This victory push the Hodags to 8-3 overall, 5-0 in the GNC.