Posted by: Feldman
Our annual boys hockey season preview is scheduled to come out in Saturday's paper, but the family Feldman is heading out of town for T'giving, so I made my trip around Rochester today and stopped at practices for all four Rochester teams.
Without getting too much into the info that will appear in Saturday's preview, here are some initial thoughts and notes after visiting with each coach and team. I'll go in the order of the practices I stopped at:
They won't say it, but reading between the lines, I sense a lot of optimism about where this season could lead for the Spartans. They've lost the Big Nine Conference championship by one point each of the last two seasons and they seem determined to not let that happen this season.
It starts with an established goalie — senior Case Hansen — and very good depth up front. Mayo's all-senior top line of Ryan Martin, Adam Alcott and Max Whitney has shown it is capable of scoring, and senior Tommy Hanson could be a big scorer this season, too. Mayo will have three lines — 10 forwards, really — that will rotate and all can provide some scoring.
We can't leave out top returning d-men Will Holtan and Tommy Fjelsted because I don't want to get checked by either of those guys. They'll provide toughness and offensive ability from the blue line. That's a good combination to have.
Watch out for: Mayo's all-sophomore line; it could will a key group for the Spartans by the end of the season.
Opener: Nov. 27, vs. Lakeville North, Graham Arena I
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Don't be surprised if the Eagles don't hit their stride until after the calendar hits January.
They're missing 10 guys right now, two out with injuries and eight who are on the Eagles' football team that will play for a state championship this Saturday. The good news: A lot of young guys and borderline JV/varsity players are getting a chance to impress the coaches and possibly earn a spot on the varsity roster.
Even if the Eagles had their full roster right now, they would need some time to figure out line combinations. Nothing's set in stone, including who will play on the top line with vets Jason Samuelson and Alex Funk. It could be Ben Weir, could be Griffen Buck, could be one of the three Carstens brothers, could be someone else.
Lourdes will have a good battle for the top goalie job, too, as senior Andrew Ellingson and sophomore Jack Burkel — a transfer from Red Wing — will both get their chance early in the season to seize the job.
Watch out for: Eighth-grader Tucker Chapman, a forward and a transfer from Texas, who could stick on the varsity from the get-go and play significant minutes. ... The Eagles again have a stacked schedule, including games against both defending state champions (St. Thomas Academy and Benilde-St. Margaret's).
Opener: Dec. 1, at St. Thomas Academy, 7:30 p.m.
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The Panthers are in a different spot than they're accustomed to: They have a lot of young players and will use the regular season to build toward the playoffs. Their goal won't be to come storming out of the gate.
That said, the Panthers still have some skilled guys leading the way, particularly forwards Hayden Ashworth and Dalton Travis. Ashworth excelled as a sophomore last season, while Travis, now a senior, was arguably the team's best forward in the final weeks of the season.
Senior Matt Sturchio is the only defenseman back with a lot of varsity experience. Sophomore Riese Zmolek is in that category, too, but he likely won't be able to start skating until sometime in January after suffering a broken ankle nearly two months ago.
Watch out for: A good battle for the starting goalie job. Senior Eric Rohleder is the only goalie with varsity experience. He'll be pushed by sophomores Max Andrist, Joey Pundt and Carter Downs.
Opener: Nov. 29, vs. Farmington, 7:30 p.m., Rochester Rec Center
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ROCHESTER JOHN MARSHALL
The Rockets lost a lot of exprience, particularly on the blue line. And that's where they'll be looking for help early on. In fact, at least two veteran forwards — Alex Lovett and Jared Bromberg — have volunteered to make the switch to the blue line. That will hurt JM's forward depth, but there's still enough returning talent up front that JM could be in the mix for the Big Nine title deep into the season, as it was a year ago.
Senior Jacob Garvey will be looked to to hold down the fort in goal. Junior Patric Sadecki will also get some chances.
Watch out for: The Rockets' top line of Gavin Sandwick, Nick Paulson and Sam Broman. Those three are together right now and have clicked well in scrimmages and practices. They'll be relied on for a lot of offense as JM looks to develop some other lines behind them.
Opener: Nov. 27, vs. Farmington, 7:30 p.m., Rec Center.