AUSTIN EDITION - Veterans key for Austin boys
Packers have 11 letterwinners back
By Guy N. Limbeck
Coach Troy Holtz hopes a core of solid players can keep the Packers in the Big Nine Conference race in boys hockey this season.
The Packers have 11 letterwinners back from last year's 8-14-2 season. Included in that group is their leading scorer, top two defensemen and top two goalies.
"I think this team is a much harder working team than we've ever had here," said Holtz, who has been in the Austin system for 13 seasons. This is his third as the head coach.
"I expect a lot of close games," the coach added. "Hopefully we'll be able to win those."
Holtz also sees the Big Nine being fairly balanced. He sees five or six teams competing for the conference title. Four others will bring up the rear.
"I expect a lot of parity in the Big Nine this year," Holtz said. That could play into the Packers hands if they keep games close and win more one- and two-goal games then a year ago.
The Packers may be equipped to win close games. Junior goalies Jack Lynch and Alex Petersen both return for their third varsity season. They have virtually split playing time the past two years and could again this season. Holtz has chosen one to go in the postseason, however. Lynch earned the right two years ago and Petersen a year ago.
"Until one goalie emerges, we'll continue to rotate," Holtz said. The coach also believes the veteran goalies with be a strength of the team.
"I think with the two goaltenders now we don't have to keep back two defensemen," Holtz said.
That's good news for free-lancing Tim Kirby. Holtz calls the junior the best defenseman in the Big Nine and perhaps one of the top 10 in the state.
"He could lead the team in scoring this year because he's so skilled at moving the puck," Holtz said. "And he's got a cannon shot.
"Tim's a complete defenseman," the coach added. "He's our best stick handler and he's got the best shot."
Senior center Dallas Williamson led the Packers in scoring a year ago with 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists), his second straight 30-plus scoring season. His linemates will be David Seibel, who scored 28 points last season, and newcomer Cody Ellingson.
Cody's older brother, senior Quinn, was Austin's No. 2 scorer last year. He still goes to school in Austin, but opened enrolled to play hockey at Albert Lea this season. He was on Williamson's line the past two seasons.
"That's a loss," Holtz said. "You don't replace that loss, but the kids will be fine."
Austin's other scoring line will be centered by junior Seth Arnold. His wings will be senior Zach Konken and junior Isiah Wright.
Josh Swancutt will center the third line. Nate Lyons will be one wing while Andrew Dennisen and Pete Johnson are battling for the other spot.
Tyler Jacobs will team with Kirby to form one defensive pair. Veteran standout Ross Riley, a senior, pairs with Luke Green for the other blueline combo.
The Packers could be short on defensemen for awhile as Tony Nace and Pete Nelson are recovering from injuries.
Holtz expects all three Rochester teams -- John Marshall, Century and Mayo -- to be in contention for the Big Nine title along with Albert Lea and the Packers. JM is the defending league champion.
The Packers get a stiff test right away as they open at home against Mayo on Tuesday.
Austin boys hockey
Seniors -- Dallas Williamson*# (center), Ross Riley*# (defense), Mitch Kaplan (wing), Andrew Dennison (wing), Luke Green* (defense), Tyler Jacobs (defense), Pete Johnson (wing), Ryan Ethan (wing), Kyle Johnson (defense), Zach Konken* (wing), Dan Swatfager (wing), Andy Nelson (defense).
Juniors -- Tim Kirby*# (defense), Alex Petersen* (goalie), Jack Lynch* (goalie), David Seibel* (wing), Tony Nace* (defense), Isiah Wright* (wing), Seth Arnold* (wing), Josh Swancutt (wing), Cody Ellingson (wing), Nate Lyons (wing). Sophomores -- David Wiebelhaus (center), Greg Hackensmith (wing), Josh Swancutt (wing), Brad DeVries (goalie). Freshmen -- Tyler Brady (wing), Andrew Brady (defense).
* -- Returning letterwinners. # -- Team captains.
Nov. 23 -- Rochester Mayo, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 30 -- Winona, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 -- at Rochester Century, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 -- at Worthington, 3 p.m.
Dec. 7 -- Faribault 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 -- at Mankato East, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 11 -- at Farmington, 3 p.m.
Jan. 14 -- at Rochester John Marshall, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 -- at Rochester Lourdes, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 21 -- at Faribault, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 4 -- at Albert Lea, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 -- at Mankato West, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 -- Owatonna, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 -- at Winona, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 -- Rochester Century, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 -- at New Ulm, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 -- St. Cloud Cathedral, 6 p.m.
Jan. 25 -- Waseca, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 -- Rochester John Marshall, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 -- at Rochester Mayo, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 -- Albert Lea, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 5-- Marshall, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 11 -- at Owatonna, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 15, 17 -- Section 1AA at highest seed, 7 p.m.
Feb. 19, 24 -- Section One semifinals, finals at Rochester, TBA
March 2-5 -- State tournament at St. Paul, Minneapolis, TBA