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7 posts from July 2012

July 19, 2012

High School Hockey | 3 from Rochester make Elite League

Posted by: Feldman

The rosters for the Upper Midwest High School Elite League were released today. Play in the high-caliber fall boys hockey league begins in September.

Rochester has three players in the league this fall, all from four-time defending Section 1A champion Lourdes. Forwards Alex Funk and Jason Samuelson, who combined for 140 points last season, and defenseman Karl Krecke, are all on Team Southwest. That team is coached by Reed Larson and Steve Olinger.

Funk, Krecke and Samuelson will all be seniors this fall.

Two other Section 1 players are in the UMEL, both from Lakeville South: Forward Patrick Lauderdale is on Team Southeast; and D Cameron Jackson is on Team Northwest.

All of the rosters can be accessed by going to this link and clicking on the team you wish to look at.

Defending Class AA state champion Benilde-St. Margaret's has six players in the UMEL, including state tournament star Grant Besse, who scored all five of the Red Knights' goals in the state title game. He led the Elite League with 35 points last fall.

Defending Class A champion St. Thomas Academy has the most players in the league, with nine.

The Lourdes trio are the first players from a Rochester school to play in the Elite League since five Lourdes players (Taylor Funk, Cole Peterson, Tyler Voigt, Pete Spratte and Charlie Hexum) all played in 2008. Mayo's Charlie Thauwald played in the Elite League in 2007.

Honkers complete rally as Wednesday turns to Thursday

By Donny Henn
The Post-Bulletin

The Rochester Honkers pulled off a remarkable comeback Wednesday night at Mayo Field.

Unfortunately almost no fans were there to witness it, because the Northwoods League college baseball game didn’t actually end until early this morning.

A two-hour rain delay followed by a 3-hour-plus game pushed the finish past midnight, to 12:12 a.m., and not many of announced crowd of 333 were left at the end to see the Honkers rally from seven runs down and beat the Mankato MoonDogs 10-7.

Rochester (6-8) halted a two-game losing skid at home and got closer to .500 (12-13) at Mayo Field this season.

The Honkers erupted for seven runs in the sixth inning and three more in the eighth, after Mankato had built a 7-0 lead through five innings.

Rochester scored seven runs on six hits in the sixth. Dakota Smith (Kansas) and Trevor Podratz (Hawaii) delivered the big hits, Smith with a two-run double to left, and Podratz a three-run homer to cap the rally.

Podratz leads the team with nine homers and 34 RBI, and the 19-year-old freshman ranks fourth in the league in homers. Smith finished 3-for-5 to raise his batting average to .335.

Rochester used some small ball to break the tie with three runs in the eighth. Justin Protacio (Kansas) drew a lead-off walk, went to second on a wild pitch and later scored from third on a ground-out. Mike Lukkason (Dakota Weseylan) followed with a two-run bloop single to right for two insurance runs.

The Honkers finished with 13 hits and five players had multiple hits. Justin Parr (Illinois) was 2-for-5 with his 12th double and raised his team-leading average to .349.

Mankato built its big lead by scoring in five of the first six innings. The MoonDogs got back-to-back solo home runs in the second inning from Craig Massoni (Chabot College) and Cody Ferrell (Oklahoma City) against Rochester starter Carl O’Neal (St. Mary’s-Texas).

Mankato scored two more in the fifth on a two-run homer by John Michael Twichell (Texas-Arlington) against relief pitcher Chris Noble (Pikeville).

The Honkers have now allowed a league-high 48 home runs in 49 games.

Six players pitched for Rochester including two normal position players. Infielder Reid Roper (Illinois) got the win and improved to 2-1; and outfielder Dakota Smith pitched a scoreless ninth for his team-leading fourth save.

The MoonDogs and Honkers close their three-game series and meet for the last time this season at 7:05 p.m. tonight at Mayo Field. Mankato (7-7) has a 5-4 edge in the season series.

July 17, 2012

H.S. hockey summer camps | Mayo

Posted by: Feldman

This won't be the last blog update before hockey season gets going full-force in the fall, but it'll be the last time I step inside a rink until October (assuming the NHL starts on time...). Let's wrap up our trip around Rochester's summer hockey camps with a look at the Mayo Spartans.

ROCHESTER MAYO SPARTANS

Last season: 17-10-0, lost to Lakeville South in Section 1AA semifinals.

Key players lost: D Steve Serratore (6-17--23), D Jack Dingle (5-17--22), F Nik Brozovich (5-7--12). 

Key players returning: Sr. F Adam Alcott (9-26--35); Sr. F Nolan Edwards (10-10--20); Jr. D Tommy Fjelsted (5-10--15); Sr. G Case Hansen (10-9-0, 3.09 GAA, .897 save pct., 2 shutouts); Jr. F Tommy Hanson (11-2--13); Sr. D Will Holtan (1-7--8); Sr. F Ryan Martin (15-7--22); Jr. F Matt Rogers (11-5--16); Jr. F Justyn Sweet (5-2--7); Sr. F Max Whitney (12-10--22).

The coaches say...: "We use these (summer practice sessions) as training. This is training; we use it as a time for teaching. It's not scrimmages, it's not fun and games, but the kids are working hard. We're doing weight room, dryland and on-ice workouts." -- assistant coach Todd Huyber.

"The fun comes in when the kids are working and doing things well and you can see that they understand what we're doing. We've seen improvement already in just a few practices." -- head coach Lorne Grosso

Thoughts from Spartans camp: Mayo has as much reason for optimism as any team in the Big Nine Conference. The Spartans lost two very good defensemen, Jack Dingle and Steve Serratore, to graduation. Serratore was about as solid of a two-way defenseman as we saw in the Big Nine last year. Still, Mayo has a ton of players back with a good amount of varsity experience, including seven forwards, a senior goalie and (despite the losses of Serratore and Dingle) a pair of tough, gritty defensemen.

Let's look at Mayo from the goal out, because the Spartans will be strong in goal. Senior Case Hansen seized the starting job at Christmas time last season and ran with it. His 3.09 goals-against average was skewed by blowout losses to Lakeville North (12-1 in the regular season) and Lakeville South (7-0 in the section semis). He was strong down the stretch, as Mayo challenged for a Big Nine title into the final week of the regular season. He then stopped 17 of 19 shots in a section quarterfinal win against rival JM.

In front of Hansen, junior Tommy Fjelsted and senior Will Holtan will get a lot of ice time. They will be Mayo's top two defensemen and, as assistant coach Todd Huyber put it, if you're going to go around or through either of those guys, you're not going to pay for it. Juniors Jordan Korte and Jacob Billings are two other guys who Mayo's coaching staff expects to help the varsity this season. Mayo also has some players coming up from the Bantam ranks, as well as a number of players who split time between JV and varsity last year, who could add depth on the blue line.

Speaking of depth, Mayo should have plenty of it up front. The team's leading goal-scorer, senior Ryan Martin, and points leader, Adam Alcott, are both back to anchor the top line, along with senior Max Whitney (I'm assuming those three will continue to play together). Senior Nolan Edwards returns after a 10-goal, 20-point season as a junior. Three juniors who combined for 36 points a year ago also are back. Tommy Hanson developed into a very reliable player as the season wore on, while Matt Rogers and Justyn Sweet also got better and better throughout the year.

Mayo will be tested right off the bat, as it opens its season at home on Nov. 27 against Lakeville North, followed by three consecutive Big Nine Conference road games (at Faribault, at Mankato West, at JM).

July 16, 2012

H.S. hockey summer camps | Lourdes

Posted by: Feldman

High school hockey teams are down to two weeks remaining in their alloted summer practice time. Teams are only allowed a certain number of practices, so they're not on the ice every day, but usually skate 2-3 times a week.

We looked at Century and John Marshall a couple of weeks ago, then I was out of town last week, so it's time to get back at it. We'll do Lourdes today, Mayo tomorrow and Dodge County on Wednesday.

Rochester Lourdes Eagles

Last season: 21-10-0 (Section 1A champions; 6th at Class A state tournament).

Key players lost: D Justin Dewitz (12-28—40); F Landon Farrell (17-39—56); F Connor Nellans (9-10—19); G Jesse Neumann (11-7-0, 2.98 GAA, .859 save pct.; 3 shutouts); F Ryan Nicolay (9-10—19).

Key players returning: Sr. F Alex Funk (36-34—70); Sr. D Karl Krecke (11-14—25); Sr. F Jason Samuelson (32-38—70); So. D Griff Slightam (5-13—18); Sr. F Ben Weir (8-6—14).

Coach Josh Spaniol said: "We have some new guys coming in who have looked strong and the pace of practice had been really good. The guys have been working hard on both ends, and we should be a lot faster this year, too. Our schedule is good, too. Of our 25 games, 10-12 should be against top-10, top-15-type teams."

Thoughts from Eagles camp: The four-time defending Section 1A champs will enter the season as an odds-on favorite to win a fifth consecutive section title and earn a fifth consecutive trip to the state tournament. That would be a first for a Rochester school.

First things first, though. The Eagles, who traditionally play a good schedule, have ramped it up even more this season. They have a very good and accomplished group of seniors, led by The Post-Bulletin/Faceoff Blog 2011-12 All-Area Player of the Year, forward Alex Funk. Forwards Funk and Jason Samuelson, and defenseman Karl Krecke, will be well-prepared for the season, as they'll play in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall.

Back to the schedule. Lourdes again has some of its traditional opponents — St. Thomas Academy (at STA, Dec. 1); St. Cloud Cathedral (Dec. 8, 2 p.m., Graham I); Duluth Marshall (at Duluth, Jan. 19, 3 p.m.); Totino-Grace (at T-G, Feb. 16, 1 p.m.); Breck (Jan. 3, 7 p.m., Graham I); Section 1 rival Red Wing (at RW, Dec. 15, 2 p.m.); and for a second consecutive season, Wisconsin power Eau Claire Memorial (at E.C., Jan. 5, Noon).

But the Eagles have added even more strong opponents this year, with home games against defending Class AA state champion Benilde-St. Margaret's (Jan. 26, 2 p.m., Graham Arena I); traditional Class A power Blake (Feb. 5, 7 p.m., Graham I); and up-and-coming Class AA team Prior Lake (Feb. 14, 7 p.m., Graham IV).

In addition to the three Elite League players, Lourdes is expected to welcome back some more key senior leaders — forwards Ben Weir and Griffen Buck, defenseman Nathan Roth and goalie Andrew Ellingson. Buck was one of a handful of underclassmen who really elevated his play late in the season last year; and Spaniol said he likes what he's seen from Weir this summer in terms of work ethic and leadership.

Spaniol said he thinks the Eagles could be able to roll three really strong lines throughout the season. The all-junior line of Cody Cossette, McKay Carstens and Kane Carstens has a year of time together at the varsity level and will be looked to to provide even more scoring punch.

On the blue line, the Eagles will be led by Krecke and sophomore Griff Sligtham, who will already enter his third season as a varsity player. Slightam recently participated in an elite camp in Rochester, N.Y., the USA Hockey Select 16 development camp. He practiced and played in front of dozens of college coaches and played against the best players in his age group from across the country. Senior Lee Brandrup is another returner who should add quality depth to the lineup.

In goal, a good battle could develop during practices in November and throughout the first part of the regular season. Ellingson, the senior, brings a good amount of varsity experience to the position, while junior Kyle Lawler saw limited varsity time last year. A newcomer, Jack Burkel, just a sophomore has transferred to Lourdes from Red Wing, and has looked sharp in summer workouts so far, Spaniol said.

With a good mix of veterans, young players with experience, and talented newcomers, the Eagles should expect to have the bullseye on their backs in Section 1 once again.

July 07, 2012

H.S. Hockey summer camps | John Marshall

Posted by: Feldman

Sorry for the lull in the posts on the high school summer camps. It's been a busy past few days. I know Mrs. Feldy was tickled that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed with the Wild on Wednesday, though I'm not sure she was as tickled that Mr. Feldy spent an hour on the Parise/Suter/Chuck Fletcher teleconference, then another two hours writing a column for Thursday's paper. :) ... And, after that, I was buried up to my driving helmet in auto racing previes, as the big annual Gopher 50 Late Model race is being held down at Deer Creek Speedway tonight.

But, we're back at it with the high school teams now. Here we go with a look at John Marshall. I'll say this for the Rockets: there's more optimism around the team (because of returning players and increasing numbers in the program) than there has been in, oh, four-five years.

JM ROCKETS

Last season: 13-11-2, lost to Rochester Mayo, 3-2, in Section 1AA quarterfinals.
Key players lost: F Kyle Andrews (14-8--22), D Matt Broman (1-11--12), D Marcus Buehler (1-0--1), F Jared Kristo (4-5--9), D Ryan Lakin (0-7--7), F Jason Macken (0-12--12).
Key players returning: Sr. G Jimmy Casazza (5-4-0, 2.26 GAA, .888 save pct., 3 shutouts); Sr. G Jacob Garvey (8-7-2, 2.28 GAA, .901 save pct., 3 SO); Sr. F Hunter Heightland (14-16--30); Sr. F Alex Lovett (8-12--20); Sr. D Alec McGinn (11-11--22); Sr. F Nick Paulson (9-6--15); Sr. F Gavin Sandwick (14-24--38); Jr. F Sam Broman (10-6--16); Jr. F Jared Bromberg (1-11--12).
Coach Jay Ness said: "We'll have a good group of seniors back to lead us, with Lovett, Heightland and McGinn as captains, plus Gavin back on the first line. ... We lost three senior D who played all the time. We have to have some young guys step up and fill those spots. ... We have good numbers of kids coming up and it seems like they're all pretty good kids."
JM uses the summer practices to "do a lot of skill work, especially with the younger kids. Lots of skating, puckhandling, shooting."
Thoughts from Rockets camp: All you need to do is look at the "key players lost" section up above to realize what the Rockets will be looking for come this winter. It's tough to replace the ice time that last year's three senior D-men gave JM. It'll be tough to replace the experience that Matt Broman, Ryan Lakin and Marcus Buehler brought to the blue line. While the Rockets will greatly miss those players, coach Ness likes the fact that a number of open spots should make for good competition in preseason practices in November. 
JM's numbers are good -- it's consistently had more than 35 players going through summer camp with the varsity and close to 40 showing up for the combined Pee-Wee/Bantam practices. That, coach Ness said, means JM will have plenty of players to pick from when it comes to filling those blue line spots. The open positions could be filled by guys who were JV/varsity combo players last season, or by young guys coming up from the Bantam ranks.
The one lock to be a top defenseman for the Rockets is senior-to-be Alec McGinn. He had a breakout season as a junior, putting up 22 points, including 11 goals.
What the Rockets really have to be excited about is their returing depth at forward and in goal. Starting in the net, seniors-to-be Jacob Garvey and Jimmy Casazza shared time in goal for most of the regular season a year ago. Garvey seized the starting job down the stretch and played very well. Both goalies put up good numbers, with goals-against averages of less than 2.30, very good numbers at any level of hockey. Not many high school teams can say they have two goalies returning with as much varsity experience as Garvey and Casazza.
Up front, the Rockets have as much returning firepower on offense as they've had in five or six years. It's been awhile (I'll look it up this fall when it comes time for season previews to be put together) since JM has had a couple of 30-plus point scorers returning. They have that this coming season, with seniors-to-be Gavin Sandwick (38 pts) and Hunter Heightland (30) returning to lead the top forward line. 
Two other seniors-to-be who had very good seasons at both ends of the ice, return, as Nick Paulson (9 goals, 15 pts.) and Alex Lovett (20 pts.) will provide scoring and leadership. Throw in juniors-to-be Sam Broman (10 goals, 16 points) and Jared Bromberg (12 points) and JM will have two very skilled lines.

July 03, 2012

H.S. Hockey | Summer camp report: Century

Posted by: Feldman

High school hockey teams around the state are taking a mandatory break from their summer camps this week for the holiday, so I figured now is a good time to get these summer camp reports posted. Like I said in a previous post, there's not a ton of information we can gain from these camps, other than the coaches like having a few weeks on the ice with their players in the summer, to see who wants to put in the time and effort in the offseason.

We'll start our trip around Rochester with the Century Panthers.

CENTURY PANTHERS

Last season: 18-7-2, Big 9 conference champions; lost to Lakeville North, 6-1, in Section 1AA semifinals.

Key players lost: G Erik Wennberg (17-6-2, 2.39 GAA, .904 save pct., 6 SO); F Nick Jacobs (captain; 13-24--37, 3 GWG; team-best 4 pts. in 2 playoff games); D Brandon Kautz (captain; 15-19--34, 10 PPG); F Blake Heroff (captain; 9-7--16); F Tyler Iverson (8-14--22; 11 pts in last 7 regular season games); F Isaac St. Marie (15-9--24; 3 PPG).

Key players returning (grade listed is the grade they'll be in, this coming school year): Sr. D Matt Sturchio (3-7--10); Sr. F Dalton Travis (15-9--24); Jr. F Hayden Ashworth (12-27--39); So. F Jacob Roth (4-10—14); So. D Riese Zmolek (5-8—13); Sr. D Ki-Jana Humphreys (1-2—3).

Questions for coach Josh Klingfus

How do you use these summer practices? What do you want to accomplish? "It's all skill work, shoot a lot of pucks, skating, stickhandling, some 1-on-1, 2-on-1 stuff, a lot of station work and breaking down each player individually."

You lost a lot of senior leadership off last year's team. How do you replace that? "We have to have guys step into those roles. The (seniors-to-be) class will step in and do just fine. We'll need guys like Matt Sturchio to pull a lot of weight, and we'll have some younger leaders, too — Hayden Ashworth, Riese Zmolek, along with the upperclassmen, we'll go as far as those guys push us."

Thoughts on the Panthers: Klingfus said the Panthers have about 35 kids going through summer workouts with the team, which is a nice number. Eric Rohleder is the only returning goalie with varsity experience, so he'll be given every chance to win the job, but will have some young guys pushing him when practice starts in November.

Dalton Travis was a player Century relied upon the entire season to provide offense and give the team a spark. He had 14 of his 24 points in the first eight games of the year, but he had a couple of big games down the stretch (including a hat trick against Albert Lea on Feb. 6) as the Panthers clinched the Big Nine title. They'll need him to continue to score and be a leader. Ashworth led the team in scoring last season as a sophomore, but lost one of his key linemates — center Nick Jacobs — to graduation.

Zmolek is one of the best all-around defensemen in the conference, and displayed a strong two-way game all of last season as a freshman. He had two points in his first varsity game and looked comfortable stepping into such a key role as a young player. As Klingfus said, they'll need Zmolek to be a leader this season, particularly with the loss of three-year blue-liner Brandon Kautz.

Century's schedule will be decent once again. The Panthers have non-conference games scheduled against two teams that made the state tournament last season, Section 1AA champion Lakeville South (Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m., Graham Arena 4) and at defending Class AA state champion Benilde-St. Margaret's (Jan. 17, 7 p.m.).

July 02, 2012

H.S. Hockey | Slightam off to Select 16 development camp

Posted by: Feldman

High school hockey teams are almost done with their summer practice allowances. They have a mandatory week off this week because of the holiday (Independence Day, not Canada Day, though hockey players should celebrate that, too, right?), then they'll be allowed to practice next week. That's it for coaches working with players until practice starts in November.

I went out to one of each of the Rochester teams' practices this past week, talked a bit with the coaches, and will have an update on each team. I'll try to get those started tonight and have one a day for the next four days.

A common theme among the four Rochester teams -- Century, JM, Lourdes, and Mayo -- is the need to replace veteran d-men. While each team has some quality d-men returning, they're all looking for some depth and guys who'll need to log significant ice time. But ... we'll get around to those conversations over the next few days.

One thing I can tell you, is that none of the Rochester teams has signed Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, though Suter would certainly provide another ice time-eating blue-liner for any of them. :)

Now, since the headline of this post says "Slightam off to development camp" I suppose we should get to that. Lourdes sophomore-to-be defenseman Griff Slightam is in Rochester, N.Y.,  where he'll participate with approximately 100 of the top 16-year-olds from around the country in the 2012 USA Hockey Select 16 Development Camp. The camp begins Saturday and runs through July 13.

The campers will divided into 10 teams for a series of games, practices, individual drills and dryland training. The rosters have not been posted yet for the camp teams, but here's a link that you can keep checking for them.

Slightam will not only receive top-notch coaching, but he'll likely be performing in front of pro and college scouts. Talking to him last week, he's excited to go test himself against the best in the country.

Rochester has sent a number of players to the USA Hockey national development camps over the past decade. Former Mayo standout and current MSU, Mankato forward Charlie Thauwald went in 2007, while former Century defenseman Conor Faupel and current Shattuck St. Mary's forward Tyler Vesel have also participated in the development camps in recent years.

Here's what Slightam had to say last week as he prepared to leave for New York:

* What do you expect the camp to be like? "I don't know what to expect, to be honest. I'm hoping to go play at the highest level I can and get recognized. I just want to go play my game and show what I can do."

* Any idea what the competition will be like? "I'm just looking forward to seeing how I compare against the best in the nation."

* Have you been working out or going to any other camps this summer? "I've been working a lot, skating a lot with Todd Lampman, working on a lot of technique, just trying to get better in every aspect. It's really specific training. He's picky -- like 'you should just be putting your toe down here instead of your whole blade' -- but it really helps. I've skated with him for a long time (in summers)."

* What have your summer camp practices been like with the Lourdes team? "We're getting ice time and bringing out intensity and setting the tone right away in the summer. We're good friends, but we're pushing each other as hard as we can."

* You'll be just a sophomore, but will be a third-year varsity player. Do you like the idea of being looked at as a team leader? "I kind of feel like I should do my best to be a leader and looked at in that way. I'm comfortable with it and looking forward to it. We have high expectations. We'll be much more experienced and everybody will be more comfortable."