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.