The Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association (WHCA) named Northland Pines boys hockey coach David Cox the Coach of the Year and Eagles senior player Jack Rhode as a WHCA Player of the Year Finalist. 

The two honorees received their plaques at the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association’s banquet in Madison Feb. 27.

Rhode is a four-year letterwinner in the Pines hockey program and has been team captain the past two seasons.

“He has been an impact player from day one of his career,” said Cox. “The word that describes Jack best is tenacious. He has been an elite state level player the past two seasons. Jack is one of the premier penalty killers in the state and anchored our power play. He would play any position we would ask if it made our team better each day.”

In conference play, Rhode had four goals and nine assists for 13 points.

“Jack has a love of the game and a smile that is infectious. He has made our program better and has a huge future in the game,” said Cox. “We will all miss the competitive fire and element he brought to practice and games.” 

Rhode helped the Eagles to an undefeated Great Northern Conference (GNC) title this year at 7-0 and a No. 1 ranking in the state in February. The Eagles finished 21-3 overall.

“Jack loved the competition and being the underdog role proving Northland Pines is a hockey powerhouse even against schools five to seven times larger than us on a nightly basis,” Cox said.

Rhode will be playing for Team Wisconsin the next few weeks fighting to get to Nationals again.

“Jack is a super hockey player and even better person. His character sets him apart from most. We wish him nothing but the best as he pursues his next step in life and hockey,” said Cox. 

Other finalists were Hayward goalie Gavin Abric, Madison West forward Drake Baldwin, Hudson forward Cole Danielson, Waukesha goalie Garrett Larson, University School forward Robby Newton, Verona defenseman Jake Osiecki and Eau Claire North forward Sam Strange, who was named the WHCA Player of the Year.

Meanwhile, Cox was presented the Bob Johnson Coach of the Year Award for high school hockey coaches in Wisconsin.

“This was a total surprise to me and very humbling to be acknowledged by my coaching peers around the state,” said Cox. “It is a group award for sure to be shared by our players, our entire coaching staff, support staff, and my family. It is truly an honor I will celebrate with many.”

Cox has been coaching high school and youth hockey for 35 years.

“It has always been a privilege to coach at Northland Pines and represent our community. The interactions each day with these young women and men we get to work with is tremendously rewarding as I watch them grow during their careers at Pines,” said Cox.

“My life verse for coaching has always been, ‘The greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back,’ ” said Cox.