A Wisconsin team in the field?
By Steve Webb
With some new teams entered in this year's Kiwanis/Wells Fargo Hockey Festival, fans might not know what to expect from them.
One newcomer that had people wondering about them is the group from New Richmond, Wis., a community just across the border in the west-central part of the state.
How in the world did a Wisconsin team find its way into a hockey tournament in Minnesota? Especially one that boasts some very good teams.
As is often the case, the answer is simple.
New Richmond coach Adam Swanda is a friend of Rochester John Marshall coach Aaron Neurer, who is from Webster, Wis. In fact, their careers appear to be on somewhat of a similar path.
Swanda is in his seventh year as head coach, Neurer is in his fifth, and both have the best teams of their coaching career.
When Apple Valley and Lakeville decided to play in different tournaments, the organizers of the Kiwanis event had to find quality teams to replace them.
New Richmond certainly qualifies. They finished second last year in the Wisconsin state tournament. Of the 17 players on that team, 16 are back this year. They are off to a 6-1 start and should be fun to watch. They are ranked third in the Wisconsin polls.
Swanda is candid about that.
"Most of the teams in this tournament would probably be in the top 10 in Wisconsin," he said. "After the top 10 teams in Wisconsin, there is a big dropoff.
"But I believe our team has some of the key ingredients that make all teams successful."
What they have is speed and goal-scoring ability. Forwards Josh Calleja and Dan Bergman have combined for 29 goals in those first seven games. Calleja has 19 of them and is a "unique" player, according to Swanda.
"He's not overly fast, not overly aggressive, but people will be able to watch him make some plays," said the coach.
The team's only loss was a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Hudson, another border city with a strong team. New Richmond outshot Hudson 44-15 in that game.
John Marshall played a non-conference game at New Richmond last year and won 3-1. New Richmond will play Alexandria at 4 p.m. Monday.
Park Center, the other new Class AA team, brings a 3-4-1 record into the tournament. They were bombed 16-0 by Wayzata in one of the losses, and are a young team. A couple of players to watch are Spike Therrein and Jarrett Leland. The team had applied to participate in this tournament for the past three seasons.
Park Center and Mayo have the first Class AA game of the day, starting at 1:45 p.m. Monday.
The new team in Class A is Orono, and there are no questions about their ability. They are undefeated at 7-0 and ranked sixth in Class A. Orono's Glen Ylitalo is one of the top scorers in the state with 11 goals and 9 assists.
Lourdes, which has had a brutal schedule already, draws Orono in the first game of the tourney, starting at 11:15 a.m. Monday.
The other Class A game will be played at Graham East, where International Falls will take on Princeton at 8:15 p.m. International Falls has a new coach in John Purdyman. Former coach Kevin Gordon has retired.
The other games for Class AA feature Rochester Century against Buffalo at 6:15 p.m. and John Marshall against Fargo South at 8:30 p.m. The Rockets, at 7-0, will show up in the state rankings soon.
The tournament starts Monday. The championship will begin about 5 p.m. Wednesday. A pass good for all the games costs $15 for adults, $10 for students. Single-game admission is $6 for adults, $4 for students.
BOX: Kiwanis/Wells Fargo Hockey Festival
Class A: Lourdes vs. Orono, 11:15 a.m. Graham West.
International Falls vs. Princeton, 8:15 p.m. Graham East.
Class AA: Mayo vs. Park Center, 1:45 p.m..
New Richmond vs. Alexandria, 4 p.m.
Century vs. Buffalo, 6 :15 p.m.
John Marshall vs. Fargo South, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Graham Arena (most Class AA, A varsity games in Graham West).
JV games in Graham East, some consolation games in Graham North.
What: This is the 11th Annual Kiwanis Hockey Tournament. All proceeds from the tournament go to help local kids groups. Included is Youth Hockey in Rochester. Last year, the five Kiwanis Clubs in Rochester working together raised over $50,000.