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Team by team outlook for southeastern Minnesota boys hockey, including Section 1A, 1AA and Big 9 Conference

A team by team look at all 22 teams in southeastern Minnesota boys high school hockey

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The Dodge County boys hockey team celebrates after its 4-1 victory against Little Falls in the Class A state tournament semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Friday, April 2, 2021. (Jason Wachter / Forum Communications)

Albert Lea

Head coach: Matt Erickson

Assistant coaches: Brad Horecka, Chad Hacker, Buck Nelson

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 9-10-0, lost to Dodge County in Section 1A semifinals

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Top returners: Jr. D Joseph Yoon (9-15—24); Jr. F Tim Chalmers (9-11—20); Jr. F Max Edwin (7-3—10); Sr. G Braden Fjelsta (3-2-0, 2.71 GAA, .887 save pct.); Jr. G Dakota Jahnke (6-8-0, 3.66, .862).

Outlook: The Tigers will miss last year’s top scorer Blake Ulve, who graduated after putting up 47 points, but their second- and third-leading scores are back, in Yoon and Chalmers. Varsity veterans Jared Turrubiartes, Spencer VanBeek and Beau Schreiber also return up front. Josh Behrends and Mason Studier return to anchor the back end, and veteran goalies Braden Fjelsta and Dakota Jahnke are both back after splitting time a year ago. Among the newcomers who coach Erickson expects to step in and contribute immediately are forwards Eli Farris and Jack Ladlie, as well as Jaegar Larson and Derrek Laite on defense. Erickson is in his first season as head coach. He’s an Albert Lea alum who played under legendary, long-time Tigers head man Roy Nystrom.

Coach Erickson says: “It is an unbelievable opportunity for me as an alumnus. Coach Nystrom coached and had an influence on a lot of players over his coaching career of 43 years. Roy Nystrom’s coaching attributes and love of community are the most influential to me and our staff. We are fortunate to have a staff of all Albert Lea alumni – four of whom played for Coach Nystrom. … Our players are most excited for fans to be back in the rinks, an improved game atmosphere versus last year.”

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MORE 2021-22 BOYS HOCKEY PREVIEW STORIES:

Boys hockey: 12 Players to Watch in southeastern Minnesota in '21-'22 A look at a dozen players to keep an eye on in the area in the 2021-22 boys hockey season.
Mayo's Norman ready to make life tough on opposing players Ethan Norman is in his fourth season as a varsity hockey player at Rochester Mayo. The big, physical defenseman is a captain and a key cog on a Spartans team that has big expectations of itself this season.

A new era at Cotter: Ramblers dive head-first into varsity hockey They have just 13 players on the roster, but the Winona Cotter Ramblers boys hockey team is anxious to test itself at the varsity level. That test begins today, with the program's first-ever varsity game.
Boys hockey preview: PB's Class A statewide Power Rankings A glance at the top 10 boys hockey teams in the state and 10 more that are challenging for those top spots.

Boys hockey preview: PB's Class AA statewide Power Rankings A glance at the top 10 boys hockey teams in the state and 10 more that are challenging for those top spots.

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Austin

Head coach: Troy Schaefer

Assistant coach: Tim Schaefer

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 0-16-0, lost to Rochester Lourdes in Section 1A first round

Top returners: F Cooper Guttormson, F Aidan Pepper, F Isaac Stromlund, D Toby Holtz, D Dylan Regenscheid, G Ethan Knox.

Outlook: The Packers will rely on those returning players at each position to set the tone for this season. It’s a fresh start for a Packers team that struggled offensively a year ago, and first-year coach Schaefer said he expects newcomers Gahvin Schaefer, Grady Carney, Wyatt Hamlin and Darren Plunkett to step into key roles immediately.

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Coach Schaefer says: “The kids are a tight group and have positive attitudes.”

Dodge County

Co-head coaches: Nick Worden, John Morales

Last season: 19-4-1, Section 1A champion, Class A state runner-up.

Key returners: Sr. G Isaac Dale (16-4-1, 3.00 GAA, .882 save pct.); Sr. F Matt Donovan (25-32—57); Sr. D Easton Hammill (7-20—27); Sr. F Gavin Giesler (7-16—23); Sr. F Brendon Wolesky (7-8—15).

Outlook: It’s a season of change for the Wildcats, who lost a superb senior class, as well as last year’s Minnesota Associated Press Player of the Year, Brody Lamb. The New York Rangers draft pick and University of Minnesota commit is playing with Green Bay in the USHL this season. Dodge County will also move up to Class AA this season after advancing to the Class A state championship game a year ago. The Wildcats have some talented players back, with senior goalie Isaac Dale and senior forwards Matt Donovan and Gavin Giesler serving as captains. Veterans Brendon Wolesky, Jake Isaak and Miles Smith are also key returning veterans up front, along with talented young players such as Gryffon Funke and Cooper Jacobson, a pair of sophomores who improved dramatically as last season went along. On defense, Easton Hammill, James McPeak, Carl Schutz and Caeden Smith give the Wildcats a good nucleus of experienced players. Dale will anchor the team in goal, with backup Ben Nelson returning as well. They’ll be pushed by a pair of sophomores, Corbin Krueger and Jackson Roethler.

Coach Worden says: “Practices have been awesome so far. The guys are super excited. They realize they have a new challenge in front of them and they’re ready to get going.”

Faribault

Head coach: Dan Pumper

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 1A

Last season:

Top returners: So. F Oliver Linneman (3-13—16); Jr. D Owen Nesburg (7-8—15); Sr. F Keaton Ginter (7-2—9).

Outlook: Faribault has a good mix of young, experienced players and older veterans this season. That group is led by Linneman, just a sophomore, who is the team’s top returning scorer. The Falcons will take a look at two or three goalies early in the season, as they determine which one or two of them will serve as the starter(s). Senior Seamus O’Connor may have the edge in that competition.

Coach Pumper says: “Our strengths are the boys’ work ethic and coachability. We have decent team speed. They always come ready to learn. … The most normal thing about this season is starting when we normally do, and being able to see the guys’ faces!”

Farmington

Head coach: Scott Macho

Assistant coach: Nathan Dapper

Conference: South Suburban Conference

Section: Section 1AA

Last season: 3-14-1, lost to Owatonna in Section 1AA quarterfinal

Top returners: Sr. F Ryan Holmstrom (4-11—15), Sr. F Dylan Dodson (6-8—14), Sr. F Hayden Sanborn (8-5—13).

Outlook: The Tigers have their top three scorers back in Holmstrom, Dodson and Sanborn. They’ll look to that trio to lead the way offensively and improve upon its combined 42 points from a year ago. Farmington will be inexperienced in goal to start the season, as junior Mitch Getting has the only varsity experience, and that is only two periods of playing time.

Hastings

Head coach: Matt Klein

Assistant coaches: Tom Kuhn, Ryan Stoffel, Blake Johnson, Ben Tharp

Conference: Metro East Conference

Section: Section 1AA

Last season: 13-7-0, lost at Lakeville South in Section 1AA semifinals

Top returners: Sr. F Jake Harris (13-9—22); Sr. F Connor Stoffel (10-11—21); Sr. F Luke Savage (6-12—18); Sr. D Collin Stewart (2-6—8).

Outlook: The Raiders finished third in the Metro East behind Hill-Murray and St. Thomas and reached the semifinals in Section 1AA before falling to Lakeville South. Hastings had five players with 20 or more points. They have 13 seniors on the roster this year and are looking to piece in a talented sophomore class with a mix of juniors to complete their squad. They’re looking for scoring depth from their top six forwards and they return three defensemen who are two-year letterwinners already. Goaltending will be solid with a pair enjoying the competition. Harris is a player to keep an eye on; the senior forward averaged more than a point per game last season.

Coach Klein says: “It’s a very selfless team, looking to take the next step. Experience and team speed will be our strengths.”

La Crescent-Hokah

Head coach: Eriah Hayes

Assistant coaches: Adam Kimball, Ben Tornow

Conference: Independent

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 6-14-0, lost to Mankato West in Section 1A semifinals

Top returners: So. F Wyatt Farrell (22-5—27), Jr. D Logan DeBoer (0-3—3), Jr. G Logan Yehle (5-10-0, 5.31 GAA, .834 save pct.).

Outlook: The Lancers return some talented and experienced players at all three spots in the lineup, led by Farrell, who scored 22 goals last year as a freshman. Farrell was lethal on specialty teams, scoring six power-play goals (tied for 18th in the state) and four short-handed goals, which tied for fourth-most in the state. Yehle’s return will help the Lancers build from the net out. The junior goalie won two of his final three starts, both of those wins coming in Section 1A playoff games. Sophomore forwards Colton Holzer and Cody Hogan could become a big part of the Lancers’ offense this season, too. “Both are highly skilled players who think the game the right way,” coach Hayes said. “I’m excited to see what they can bring to the table for us.”

Coach Hayes says: “Last year’s postseason success was a huge step in the right direction for our program. We played a tough schedule last year and for them to get rewarded for all of the work they put in was great. They raised the bar, and now they know where they need to be in order to have that same success. I can definitely feel a different sense of confidence with them. They are ready to pick things up right where we left off and they are ready to compete with those top teams in our section. … Up until this year we’ve had a very young team and not great numbers. This year we have seven seniors and some young kids that have a lot of experience at this level. They are confident, and more ready than ever. I think we have a group that is going to surprise some people.”

Lakeville North

Head coach: Jake Taylor

Conference: South Suburban Conference

Section: Section 1AA

Last season: 12-7-2, Section 1AA runner-up

Top returners: Sr. F Luke Jech (13-14—27); Jr. F Kyle Doll (12-11—23); Sr. D Zach Enebak (1-16—17).

Outlook: Jech and Doll are not only players to watch in the section, but they could be in the conversation among the top forwards in the state. Both averaged more than a point per game in a difficult conference. Jech had 13 goals and 27 points in 21 games a year ago, while Doll finished the season with 12 goals and 23 points. Taylor, a Byron native, is in his third season as the Panthers’ head coach after serving as an assistant for six seasons.

Lakeville South

Head coach: Josh Storm

Conference: South Suburban Conference

Section: Section 1AA

Last season: 20-1-2, Section 1AA champion, Class AA state runner-up.

Top returners: Jr. F Tanner Ludtke (16-34—50); Jr. F Ashton Dahms (14-10—24); Jr. F Aidan Willis (4-20—24); Sr. F Ben Portner (16-8—24); Sr. D Mason Johnson (4-11—15);

Outlook: Storm takes over for Jani Kivilhamme after the Cougars won the section and advanced all the way to the Class AA state championship game last season, where they lost 2-1 to Eden Prairie in OT. South will be led by a strong group of returning players, including junior forward Tanner Ludtke, who had two goals and five points in the state tournament last season. The University of Nebraska Omaha commit had 16 goals and 50 points in just 23 games a year ago. South has good size, too. In addition to the forwards listed above, 6-foot-4 junior forward Zander Billins looks to step into a bigger role this season after recording four goals and eight points last year. Likewise for junior forwards Tate Pritchard (eight points) and Eli Miller. In addition to Johnson, senior Wyatt Sender and 6-foot junior Tyler Lafferty will help anchor the blue line. In goal, Owen Havlicek and Jack Hochsprung will battle for time, while newcomers Joe Guentzel and Jack Novak will slot in on the blue line.

Coach Storm says: “The offensive talent of this group is very special. Every line has the ability to score on any shift. We have a very active defensive core who can create offense and skate extremely well. … The boys are looking forward to the normalcy! Hockey players enjoy each other; last year was rule after rule, for good reason, but it took away from a lot of the off-ice elements that make high school hockey so amazing. Now we can go watch other teams play in person, enjoy our locker room, do team building and team bonding activitites.”

Mankato East

Head coach: Adam Fries

Assistant coaches: Luke Meyer, Matt Tyree, Jeff Humble

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 3A

Last season: 14-5-0, lost to La Crescent-Hokah in Section 1A quarterfinals

Top returners: Sr. F Quintin Steindl (6-13—19); Jr. F Zach Lebens (8-10—18); Sr. D Aiden Prochaska (5-8—13); Jr. D Shae Gavin (5-8—13); Sr. G Caelin Brueske (14-13-1, 3.70 GAA, .875 save pct. in 2019-20).

Outlook: East will move west this season, sliding over to play in Section 3A come postseason time, after becoming a perennial title contender in Section 1A. The COVID bug bit the Cougars late last year, with all but two of their varsity players being ruled ineligible for the section playoff loss to La Crescent. The Cougars also lost one of the top forwards in the area, Layten Liffrig, to graduation, as well as one of the top defensemen, Brett Borchardt. With East’s top five scorers having graduated, now-senior forward Quintin Steindl is the top returning scorer. Zach Lebens will join him among the team’s skilled forwards, while Aiden Prochaska and Shae Gavin are back to anchor the defensive corps. Caelin Brueske is the lone goalie on the roster with varsity experience; he played 51 minutes last season after being the Cougars’ go-to goalie the prior season as a sophomore.

Mankato West

Head coach: Nate Olsen

Assistant coaches: Jacob Staszak, Jason Anderson

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 3A

Last season: 13-5-2, Section 1A runner-up

Top returners: Sr. F Gavin Brunmeier (17-13—30); So. F Gage Schmidt (15-8—23); Jr. F Zach Benson (2-5—7); Jr. F Sam O’Neil (2-2—4); D Toby Essay (2-2—4).

Outlook: After being a perennial contender for the Section 1A championship, the Scarlets are moving west this winter, just as their cross-town rival Mankato East Cougars are. Both Mankato teams will move out of Section 1A and into Section 3A. They’ll also have a new head coach on the bench for the first time in two decades, as Olsen takes over for Curtis Doell, who resigned after last season. The Scarlets have a handful of key players back from last season’s Section 1A runner-up team, including forwards Brunmeier, Schmidt, Benson and O’Neil, and defenseman Essay. The Scarlets will be green in goal, though, as none of the goalies on their roster have played in a varsity game. Coach Olsen expects a few JV players from a year ago to step in immediately and help out the varsity: junior forward Maddox Langworthy, sophomore defenseman Hunter Rigdon, freshman defenseman Jaeger Zimmerman and sophomore goalie Wyatt Lund.

Coach Olsen says: “Our guys are most excited about the opportunity to spend time together in the locker room and have our entire Scarlet hockey family together – last year we had to split our JV and our varsity guys for practice, busses, and locker rooms, so having everyone together and being able to spend quality time off the ice together is a big deal to our guys. … Our biggest strength is the fact we have excellent, hard-working young men in our program who are leaders at Mankato West and in our hockey community. We’re excited about the veteran depth we have up front, and believe a deep group of forwards will help our young guys on the back end grow, helping turn our team into a hard-nosed, hard-working team who is difficult to play against for a full 51 minutes. I’m ultimately most looking forward to seeing our guys continue to improve day in and day out, and to continue to improve upon the culture of the Scarlet hockey program as we look to achieve our goals.”

New Prague

Head coach: Brad Drazan

Assistant coaches: Ben Witt, Grant Yackly, Eric Brever, Joel Barzee

Conference: Metro West

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 3-16-0, lost to Eden Prairie in Section 2AA quarterfinals

Top returners: Sr. F Will Andersen (6-5—11); Jr. F John Schmidt (3-5—8); Fr. F Luke Portner (2-4—6); Sr. G Carter Puente (3-14-0, 4.11 GAA, .887 save pct.)

Outlook: The Trojans are back in Class A, and back in Section 1, after a handful of years in different sections and in Class AA. Will Andersen is the Trojans’ top returning scorer and their only returner who reached double figures in points. But they aren’t light on experience, with forwards Schmidt, Portner, Will Seymour and Owen Wilkins, and defensemen Ryan Brinkhaus, Layton Kuehner, Peyton Becker and Breck Hagen back after seeing plenty of varsity ice time. Puente gives the Trojans a veteran goalie, too, having played nearly 90 percent of the team’s minutes a year ago.

Coach Drazan says: “This group is a close group. They have enjoyed being together. It’s the little things for them, they enjoy supporting each other and spending time together. They are also looking forward to having fans in the rink to cheer them on. ... This group has great cohesiveness and leadership. They have confidence in one another and enjoy both the game of hockey and also being with each other. They play hard and give great effort. They have great heads on their shoulders and show up ready to improve every day. We love their positivity on the ice and in the locker room. They have a wide range of acceptance of their teammates and trust in their goaltenders.”

Northfield

Head coach: Mike Luckraft

Assistant coaches: Scott Cloud, Charlie Cloud

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 12-6-1, no postseason due to COVID pandemic

Top returners: Sr. F Spencer Klotz (15-31—46); So. F Cayden Monson (20-15—35); Jr. F Cullen Merritt; Jr. F Gabe Sawyer (0-4—4); Jr. D Mike Fossum (1-8—9); Sr. D Matthew DeBuse (0-5—5); Sr. D Luke Johnson; Sr. D Alan Royle; Jr. G Keaton Walock (8-2-0, 1.65 GAA, .921 save pct., 4 shutouts).

Outlook: The Raiders return to Section 1A this year after two seasons at the Class AA level. They also return nine players from last season’s team, though just four of them are seniors. In other words, Northfield is a young, but experienced team and is one of the favorites — if not the favorite — in Section 1A this season. More than all of that, coach Luckraft said he and the players are looking forward to a more “normal” season with COVID restrictions greatly reduced across the state, and the season starting on time. “Hopefully we are back to a normal hockey season, no mask, no COVID and can enjoy all that’s great about high school hockey: Teammates, the locker room banter, the bus rides and most of all fans in the stands!” Northfield will be led by those nine talented returners, while sophomores Cam Kaiser, Jake Geiger, and Andrew Winter are expected to add some punch up front, and sophomore Ty Frank could be an impact newcomer on defense.

Coach Luckraft says: “We bring back some skill in all three areas, and great team leadership from our captains. The team should have some depth, we have good team speed and goaltending.”

Owatonna

Head coach: David Fromm

Assistant coaches: Trace Strahle, Justin Fletcher

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 1AA

Last season: 13-5-1, lost 2-0 at Lakeville North in Section 1AA semifinals

Top returners: Sr. F Casey Pederson (8-6—14), Sr. D Joey Dub (3-9—12), Sr. G Preston Meier (8-3-0, 2.44 goals-against average, .893 save pct.)

Outlook: Fromm takes over as head coach of the Huskies after Josh Storm departed to take the head coach position at Lakeville South. Owatonna lost its top five scorers to graduation, but they’ll have some talented returners, including senior goalie Preston Meier, to build around. Senior forward Casey Pederson is the top returning scorer, after putting up 14 points last season. Among the newcomers Fromm expects to contribute right away this season are Mark Spurgeon, Joesph Weber, Ben Bangs and Owen Beyer.

Coach Fromm says: “Strong defense and goaltending will be our strength this season. I’m looking forward to the work ethic of this group and the compete level. … (After last season) the boys (appreaciate the) ability to be together in the locker room, and have the whole team practicing together, working out together.”

Red Wing

Head coach: Tony Casci.

Assistant coaches: Bill Redman, Jack Strusz.

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 4-13-1, lost to Two Rivers in Section 4A first round

Top returners:

Outlook: The Wingers are moving back south again this season, as they return to Section 1A after two brief years in Section 4A. They hope to carry over the momentum built in the second half of last season. After a 1-8-1 start, Red Wing went 3-5-0 in its last eight games. The good news is that, if they’re building from the net out, goalie Dixon Ehlers had a solid junior season last winter, recording a 4.49 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. The Wingers will need to find some scoring, as last year’s top two scorers graduated, and senior Casey Larson (5-7—12) is the only returning player who reached double digits in points.

Rochester Century

Head coach: Josh Klingfus.

Assistant coaches: Drew Fleming, Adam Broich, Tom Musta, Casey Gorman, Doug Zmolek.

Last season: 5-14-0, lost to Lakeville North in Section 1AA quarterfinals

Key returners: Jr. F T.J. Gibson (14-8—22); Sr. F Aidan Swee (6-10—16); Jr. F Aiden Emerich (4-10—14); Jr. F Jack Ottman (4-10—14): Sr. D Matt Haun (4-7—11); Jr. F Jonah Ottman (7-4—11); Sr. G Conor Cozik.

Outlook: The Panthers were a young team a year ago, this year they have an experienced group that knows what it’s like to play at the varsity level. They return five double-digit scoring forwards (Gibson, Swee, Emerich, Jack Ottman, Jonah Ottman) and four key defensemen (Haun, Grant Rosin, Kroix Klingfus, Ed Retzlaff). Cozik also returns in goal after playing 16 of 19 games a year ago. Century has eight of its top 10 scorers back from last season, many of whom will get to play in their first “normal” varsity season this winter, with the COVID pandemic having shortened and altered the 2020-21 season.

Coach Klingfus says: “Just being together is probably the biggest thing. It was hard to have that team building and comradery when we were separated so much last year. We have a great group of kids that are very coachable. They will come ready to work hard and compete as hard as they can.”

Rochester John Marshall

Coaches: Matt Erredge, Pete Moehnke.

Last season: 1-13-0, lost to Lakeville South in Section 1AA quarterfinals

Key returners: Sr. F Ryan Hus; Sr. F Jake Schmidt; Jr. D Mason Decker (2-4—6); Jr. F Cody Ahlstrom; So. D Jayden Veney; Jr. G Cody Vlasaty; G Camdon Magle.

Outlook: The Rockets have a small group under first-year head coaches Matt Erredge and Pete Moehnke, but it’s a group whose work ethic has impressed the coaches so far. With just 15 skaters out, JM will count on every player on the roster to contribute in some way. Junior defenseman Mason Decker is the team’s top returning scorer. The Rockets will also bring back experienced defenseman Jayden Veney. Up front, veterans Ryan Hus, Jake Schmidt and Cody Ahlstrom will lead the way. Newcomers Aaron Terpstra, Damon Miller and Adam Mullenbach will be looked to to help on both ends of the ice.

Coach Erredge says: “Our biggest strength is we are returning most of our defensive corps from last year. Most have played significant minutes at the varsity level in all situations. I am looking forward to surprising teams with our work ethic and seeing this group develop into a team. With our low numbers and transfers to local teams, this team is out to prove we can and will get better as the year goes on and hopefully we can play spoiler to teams that take us lightly.”

Rochester Lourdes

Head coach: Jeff True.

Assistant coaches: Zach Bartosh, Joe Knoepke, Jim Renn, Todd VerNess.

Last season: 11-6-1, lost to Mankato West in Section 1A quarterfinals

Key returners: Sr. F Matt Mahoney (18-11—29); Sr. F Brayden Magnuson (7-5—12); Sr. D Charlie Kielty (10-12—22); Sr. D Jackson Heim (4-12—16); Sr. D Brayden Swee; So. G Xander Carter-Kleven (4-1-0, 3.00 GAA, .911 save pct.).

Outlook: The Eagles lost a talented class to graduation, including goalie Griffin Becher and leading scorer Jack Kleinschmidt. But they return four of their top five scorers and talented young goalie Xander Carter-Kleven, who looked sharp in the five games he played last season. Mahoney plays a fast, physical game; he led the team in goals last season. Kielty has a similar style on the blue line, where he averaged 1.22 points per game.

Coach True says: “We have a group that is determined to work hard, push themselves and their teammates, and show up each day wanting to improve. We have a good mix of younger, new players with veterans. The younger players bring some skill and talent and will push the returners for varsity spots and keep practices intense and competitive. As coaches, we are most looking forward to a "normal" season, being able to implement and do the things we would like as a coaching staff, on the ice and away from the rink which we were restricted from doing as a first-year staff last year.”

Rochester Mayo

Head coach: Matt Notermann.

Assistant coaches: Alec Brandrup, Nate Markus, Ron Moffit.

Last season: 12-4-1, no postseason due to COVID-19.

Key returners: Sr. G Tate Cothern (7-1-0, 1.38 GAA, .949 save pct.); Jr. F Ethan Dennis (10-6—16); Sr. D Ethan Norman (3-10—13); Jr. F Mason Leimbek (4-8—12); Sr. F Javan Hodge (4-7—11).

Outlook: The Spartans look to pick up where they left off a year ago. Mayo was on a 9-1-1 streak over its final 11 games before the COVID pandemic ended its season just as the playoffs were about to begin. Mayo has high hopes this year, with one of the state’s top goalies backstopping it. Cothern was 7-1-0 last season with a 1.38 goals-against average (sixth-best in the state) and .949 save percentage (second in the state). The Spartans had seven players finish with double-digits in scoring and 10 players had eight or more points. Dennis and Norman led the way atop the scoring list, but the Spartans expect to receive key contributions from three, if not all four forward lines. The team’s depth will make for great battles in practice and a competitive, hard-nosed team on game day.

Coach Notermann says: “Like last year, when our lines looked so even (statistically), our scoring was so spread out that we didn’t have one guy getting 25 goals. It was very evenly spread out. I expect that again this year. … We have eight defensemen who are good enough to play varsity hockey, with a couple of young guys making it hard on us coaches to not give them a varsity job. … Our goalies, as much as I feel very strongly about the rest of our roster, I feel confident that we have the best goalie. Let’s not always leave it to him, but I feel like, in that area, we should be as good as anybody.”

Waseca

Head coach: Chris Storey

Conference: Big South Conference

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 11-9-0, lost at Dodge County in Section 1A quarterfinals

Top returners: Jr. F Kyle Ahlschlager (31-26—57); Jr. F Leo Harguth (7-6—13); Sr. D Jarret Ahlschlager (3-10—13); Jr. F Griffin Krautkremer (9-4—13).

Outlook: The Bluejays welcome back one of the more dynamic scorers in Section 1A and southeastern Minnesota. Kyle Ahlschlager will again be looked to to produce at a high rate; the junior forward scored 31 goals and added 26 assists last season, for 57 total points. Three other double-digit scorers return for Waseca, in forwards Leo Harguth and Griffin Krautkremer, and defenseman Jarret Ahlschlager. The Bluejays will need to find a goalie, though, as veteran Ben Diedrich graduated after playing more than 80 percent of the minutes last season, going 10-8-0 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. The two netminders listed on their roster — junior Eli Wetzel and freshman Derek Gustafson — have not played at the varsity level.

Winona Cotter

Head coach: Martin Raymond

Conference: Independent

Section: Section 1A

Last season: This is Cotter’s first season as a varsity program

Players to watch: Sr. D Ashur Rouleau; G Jozef Zilinec.

Outlook: The Ramblers are new to varsity hockey and are still building their program. Raymond came to Winona from California last year to run the team as a JV program. With just 13 skaters, the Ramblers will look for their skaters to play short shifts, and most importantly, for their defensemen to break the puck out of their own end quickly. Rouleau, a senior defenseman, will serve as the team’s captain. Goalie Jozef Zilinec is an intriguing player to watch. The Slovakia native goes 6-feet-6, 200 pounds and put up solid numbers at the U16 and U18 levels in his native country.

Coach Raymond says: “For me … our family came here because I wanted my kids to have a good place to live and experience the style of life here, leaving California. The schooling here is great. … To be honest, winning is (secondary) right now. It’s about improving the skills of the kids in high school and youth hockey, help this area of the state develop more players. It’d be great to build more competitive teams (in southeastern Minnesota). That starts with the younger kids. That’s the future. Over the next five or six years we could see a big difference in that area.”

Winona High

Head coach: Fran McDevitt.

Assistant coach: Thomas Lueck.

Conference: Big Nine Conference

Section: Section 1A

Last season: 6-12-1, lost at Waseca in first round of Section 1A playoffs

Top returners: So. F Teis Larsen (9-13—22); Fr. F Aven Prodzinski (7-3—10); Sr. F Ayden Ruesgen (4-6—10).

Outlook: The Winhawks took a big hit to graduation, losing three of their top four scorers, including leading scorer Matt Thesing, who had 18 goals and 31 points as a senior. Also gone is long-time starting goalie Alex Benson, who played all but 43 minutes in goal last season and posted a 3.36 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. The Winhawks will build around two young playmakers, Teis Larsen and Aven Prodzinski. Larsen was the team’s second-leading scorer a year ago. Senior goalies Justin Brickner and Brayden McDevitt are inexperienced, having combined to play just 42 minutes, 36 seconds last year.

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