Youth hockey: Rochester Pee Wees ready to take on state's best
The Rochester Pee Wee AA boys hockey team had high hopes and expectations entering the season.
A handful of the team's players played in the Pee Wee B state tournament last season, but a majority of them were on a Pee Wee A team that came up a game short of making state. That's been added motivation this season.
"This was the goal; the boys have worked very hard for it," coach Scott Schneider said. "We expected to be at this level."
After a second-place finish on March 2 at the East Region tournament, Rochester advanced into this weekend's Pee Wee AA state tournament at Ralph Engelstad Arena and Huck Olson Memorial Center in Thief River Falls.
It is scheduled to face Cloquet at 4 p.m. Friday in a state quarterfinal game. Rochester beat Cloquet 5-2 earlier this season in the championship game of the Cloquet tournament.
"We're a pretty high-scoring team," Schneider said. "Our first line is probably as good, if not better, as any in the state. We play well as a team; we don't keep any goals or assists totals. It's a very unselfish group that plays good team defense."
Rochester has defeated five of the seven other teams in this weekend's tournament. It lost to top-seeded Edina during the regular season and lost by one goal to Osseo/Maple Grove in the East Region championship game.
Rochester is in the opposite bracket of both of those teams. It will face Sibley or Prior Lake in the second round; Rochester beat Sibley once and won two of three against Prior Lake this season.
"We play good team hockey," Schneider said. "All of the guys understand their roles. They understand not everyone is a goal-scorer and that stopping a goal against us is just as important as scoring."
The team's goalies, Jacob Gathje and Ryan Smith, have split time, coach Schneider said.
"We go with the hot goalie," he said, "and that can change game-to-game, period-to-period."
Rochester's defensemen are Seth Karsell, Luca Martini, Alex Anneke, Taylor Stewart and Coleton Swee. Its forwards are Ian McBane, Luke Newman, Cort Buck, Dylan Schneider, Sam Verkerke, Dustin Sorensen, Mitchell Kohner, Jared Anderson and Zach Stewart.