High school hockey | Breaking down the Big Nine
Posted by: Feldman
In case you missed it, the 2012-13 boys hockey preview ran in Saturday's Post-Bulletin.
My profile story to open this season was on Mayo's top line, center Ryan Martin and wings Adam Alcott and Max Whitney. That story can be found here.
It looks like the team previews for the Rochester teams, Dodge County and Red Wing didn't make it online, but I'll see if I can get them posted today or tonight and link to them here.
I didn't have room in the print edition to run a Big Nine Conference preview, so I thought I'd do something of a preview/prediction piece on here. Here's my best guess at what the conference standings will look like on Feb. 16 when the regular season comes to a close. Also on Feb. 16, I'll pull this post up and see how close I've come. Maybe.
1. ROCHESTER MAYO
The Spartans have come up a point shy of the conference title each of the past two seasons. They have a bunch of talented seniors (including G Case Hansen, D Will Holtan and Fs Alcott, Martin, Whitney and Nolan Edwards). They also have a line of three sophomores -- Nick Newman, Ethan Moore and Logan Haskins -- that could be a big part of their attack by the end of the season.
2. ROCHESTER JOHN MARSHALL
The Rockets are thin in terms of veteran defensemen. Senior Alec McGinn and junior Garret Strom will be leaned on a lot to hold down the back end, as will Alex Lovett and Jared Bromberg, forwards who have voluntarily moved back to D. Their transition zaps some of JM's offensive depth, but the Rockets still have plenty of firepower up front, with Gavin Sandwick, Hunter Heightland, Nick Paulson, Sam Broman, Mitch King and Jack Christensen. Most importantly, JM has a solid, experienced goalie, senior Jacob Garvey. The Rockets were in the Big Nine title hunt until the final couple of weeks of last season. They'll use that experience to push them this year.
The Huskies have 12 letterwinners back from last year's team that went 11-5-1 in the conference. The big question: How quickly will some players bounce back from a long football season that just came to a close this past weekend in the Prep Bowl? Owatonna will be led by a pair of 30-point scorers, senior Matt Ratzloff and junior Soren Colstrup.
4. ROCHESTER CENTURY
This is where I think the Panthers will end up, but it's not a reflection of how they'll be playing come mid-February. Coach Josh Klingfus' club has a lot of young players who will be thrown right into the varsity fire. They also are without their top defenseman (soph. Riese Zmolek, whose broken ankle will keep him off the ice until sometime in January) and they have just one goalie, senior Eric Rohleder, with any varsity experience, and that is minimal (he was 1-1-0 last season). All that said, Century has some really talented veterans. Senior Dalton Travis has been on the ice for two months already with the Ice Hawks, while junior Hayden Ashworth (40 points) and sophomore Jake Roth (14) know what it's like to go through a full season and be relied on to score. Century may start slowly, but I wouldn't want to be its opponent in the first round of the Section 1AA playoffs.
5. MANKATO WEST
The Scarlets are another team without a experienced varsity goalie, but they have seven veteran forwards back and three defensemen who logged a lot of ice time last season. Senior Ryan Jutting (26 pts.) and junior Derek Frentz (22) lead the forwards. They lost top d-man, and team captain, Billy Bigham, who transferred, so juniors Max Mettler (14) and Scott McKissick (12) will lead the d-men.
6. ALBERT LEA
The Tigers have 10 letterwinners back from a team that finished just below .500 (13-14-1). They're led by senior Nate Stadheim (32 points), who should be one of the top scorers in the conference again. They have five players back who totalled 11 or more points last season, and they have three experienced d-men back, led by senior Darik Weigel (7 pts.). A lot of the Tigers' success will depend on how senior Lucas Malimanek (3-0-0, 1.33 GAA, .897 save pct.) performs. We'll have a good idea of where Albert Lea fits in the Section 1A race just a couple weeks into the season. The Tigers first three games are against Northfield, Faribault and West, all section opponents.
An argument could be made to put the Winhawks anywhere from fifth to eighth in the conference. They have six veteran forwards and their top four defensemen are varsity veterans. Senior G Andrew Yeske (9-15-0) is also back and his play will have a big affect on how the Winhawks finish in the conference race. Senior Ryan Grant (11-13--24) is the team's top returning scorer, as five forwards are back after producing 10 or more points last season.
Defense will be the Falcons strength. They have blue-liners who can hold fort in their own end, but also help out offensively. In fact, senior defenseman Connor Wierschem (18 points) is tied with forward Cody Colegrove as the team's top returning scorer. Senior Cody Morsching returns in goal, but he'll have to improve on his 4.32 GAA and .886 save pct. if the Falcons are to make a run at the top half of the conference.
The Packers won just once in the Big Nine last season and they really only have one direction to go. In order to improve, they'll need a lot of scoring out of seniors Marcus Stoulil (17-10--27) and Ethan Larson (11-12--23). Goalie Rainer Londino-Green has put up good numbers the past couple of years (he had an .834 save pct. last season despite facing 39 shots per game, including more than 50 on 10 occasions).
10. MANKATO EAST
The Cougars will be a young team again this year and they hope to improve on their 4-21-0 season of a year ago. However, they have just two players on the roster who had more than seven points last season, F Carter Johnson (5-9--14) and D Shane Sellner (4-7--11). East has six players who are entering their third varsity seasons, but the Cougars have to find scoring somewhere, or it will be another long season.