Boys’ hockey preview: Hockey fans will be in for a treat this season

Andover set school records for wins with a 19-7-2 overall record and highest conference finish, tied for second place last season before making its first-ever section final before losing to Duluth East 4-1.

Andover goalie Chase Perry

Luckily the team returns seven forwards who collected at least 28 points which helps disperse the scoring and as coach Mark Manney puts it: “Creates match-up problems for our opponents.”

Junior goalie Chase Perry will once again backstop what should be a very strong Andover squad that will combine forward depth to be a tough team to contend with.

Perry, one of the state’s top netmiders, posted another school record .923 saves percentage last season and played for Team Northwest as part of the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League’s Elite I league and was selected to play for Minnesota Red in the Bauer NIT Tournament this fall.

Brady Barthold

He also participated in the USA Hockey national camp in Rochester, N.Y., in July as part of the 16-year-old group.

The Huskies return five all-conference selections who happen to be winger or center. Senior Cal Rak tallied 28 goals (48 points) to lead all returners. Senior wingers Brady Barthold had 42 points (24 assists) and Nick Manney had 34 points (22 assists) and centermen  junior Tyler Tomberlin had 38 points (27 assists), senior Christian Mohs had 37 points (19 assists) and senior Jared McComber had 36 points (23 assists). Freshman forward Zach Sitarz will provide depth as a power forward with a big shot and was part of the Elite I League’s MEPDL Stars.

Anoka will be solid in goal with junior Robbie Goor and across the blue line with four-year senior captain defensemen Kristian Manthey and Dylan Adler. Junior Adam Orn was a defenseman last season but will switch to a give some depth as a forward with senior captain Chase West.

The Tornadoes finished 11-16 last season and beat Centennial in the section opener before losing to Blaine in the semifinal.

New additions to the coaching staff include assistant Sean Fish who was a member of the 2003 state tournament team and has coached various Junior A-level teams in the NAHL for the last five seasons. Shawn Pietsch was a member of the 2005 Anoka squad and goaltender coach is Jack Duffy.

Blaine reached its seventh straight section final before collapsing against a very strong Maple Grove squad in the final.

Blaine’s Mac Nadeau looks for a pass last season. Photo by Bill Jones

Captains Jack Micek and Jesse Norling will guide what Bengals coach Dave Aus believes can be their best squad since the memorable 2009 team and best-ever in 13 years with Aus.

Norling and Tyler Cline played in the Elite League this fall and Blaine had another seven players compete in the developmental league. Ian Scheid already played a few games with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars this fall.

“We are very gifted skills-wise and dangerously fast with outstanding team speed and depth at all positions,” he said.

One of the roster battles is to determine the starting goalie between junior Bailey Ketola and senior James Simmer.

Junior forward Dallas Gerads was part of the Elite I league’s MEPDL Stars.

Coon Rapids
Coon Rapids has a very young team with seven sophomores expected in the line up along with two young goaltenders, Justin Ball and Zack St. John, who coach Brandon Mileski believes are capable of carrying the load between the pipes.

Junior Seth Johnson returns as the leading scorer with 22 points (12 goals) and earning All-Northwest Suburban Conference Honorable Mention honors last season.

Senior Jake Bruner has collected 11 points in each of the last two seasons and will be looked upon to lead the power play after scoring three goals last season.

Captains for the 2012-13 campaign are Connor Kirkeide and Same Neagele and will be expected to log a lot of ice time on the blue line.

Legacy Christian Academy
Legacy added another program first last season as the team not only finished with an above .500 record of 13-11-3 but won its first section game in a 4-0 win over North Branch before losing to Rogers 3-1. The Royals went on to lose to Hermantown in the section final.

The Lions, who have been a varsity program for five seasons and have a majority of upperclassmen on the roster for the first time ever, return senior captain and leading scorer Ike Larson who collected 28 points (15 assists) along with juniors Brock Thompson and Tyler Arenz who collected 22 and 16 points, respectively.

Junior Gordy Vitek added 15 points and senior Brandon Leier had 13 points as forwards. Fellow senior captain Sam Asfahl returns to the blue line after collecting 10 points and senior Zack Cole tallied 13 points. Junior goalies Tanner Balk and Brandon Cram will share the duties between the pipes. Balk posted a 2.14 goals against average in seven games and Cram had a 2.26 goals against average in one and one-third games.

“Coming off our best season so far, we are playing a tougher schedule this season and are also hoping to improve our overall record,” Coach Steve Larson said. “A key factor for us will be avoiding illness and injury. Playing with our full line-up will be key to our success.”

Look for the Lions to compete with Minneapolis, Wisconsin and Mora for the Two Rivers Conference crown and possibly with St. Cloud Cathedral and Hermantown in sections.

Spring Lake Park
The Panthers finished with a 9-15-1 overall record including a first-round exit from sections courtesy of a 2-0 loss to Sibley.

Spring Lake Park Coach Tom Benson begins his 20th season behind the bench with several new faces at key positions on the ice.

David Taylor

Junior forwards David Taylor and Jake Kroll return as the leading returning scorers with 16 and 10 points, respectively while sophomore Jacob Nystrom added 15 points last season.

The Panthers lost its top three point-producers and starting goalie from 2011-12.

Junior J.T. Hirschi and senior Brian Jones saw time in net last season and will be leaned on this season.

Defenseman Nick Heid was part of the MEPDL Stars in the Elite I league this fall and collected eight points last winter for the Panthers.

Spring Lake Park will not face Benilde-St. Margaret’s this season as they elected to play an independent schedule after winning the Class AA state title in 2012.

St. Francis

Returning 18 letterwinners including nine seniors from a 9-15-3 record, St. Francis is poised to make a leap into double-digit wins this season. Among the returners is sophomore goaltender Darion Hanson who played the majority of minutes in net as a freshman.

Darion Hanson, St. Francis goalie

Coach Tyler Schaff enters his third season leading the Fighting Saints with a balanced attack with experience across the ice. “We expect our seniors and underclassmen to continue to lead by example both on and off the ice,” he said while posting a 16-34-3 record during his tenure. “Continuing to grow as a team will be the key to our success.”

Elite League participant Kyle Wagner, a junior forward, will be looked upon to provide scoring after posting 16 points last season.

Among those returning, senior assistant captain Cameron Kaehler and senior captain Zach Foesch each had 29 points to earn co-leading scorers last season. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Ryan Mohar will add stability to the blue line and provide a scoring touch that saw him amass 21 points, third most on the squad in 2011-12.

Junior forward Kyle Wagner had 16 points last winter and is coming off playing in both Elite II and Elite I fall leagues.