Andover and Anoka boys hockey programs were well represented in the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association post-season awards.
Andover head coach Mark Manney and assistant coach Brett Barta were named Section 7AA Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year, respectively.
This marks the second time Manney earned the honor that is voted on by fellow section coaches. His first came after the 2009-10 season.
“It’s always great to be recognized by your peers,” Manney said. “But sometimes we get too much credit for the wins and not enough blame for the losses but it really is a reflection of the [team’s] performance on the ice.”
The pair helped coach a young and inexperienced squad to a to an 18-9 record, including a 12-1 winning run since Jan. 9. to close out the regular season. Andover fell to Elk River in the section semifinal 4-2 after splitting regular season meetings.
Getting within two wins of a 20-win season wasn’t something Manney thought was realistic coming into the season, or through the first portion of the season.
“The toughest part of the season was the slow start,” Manney said. Andover graduated seven of the top dozen forwards, three defensemen and two goalies heading into this season. “We were relatively inexperienced and didn’t really play well until after Christmas. Things really clicked together then and finished it very strong. By far the best part was the end.”
To illustrate the point, sophomore forward Zach Sitarz was the leading scorer with 27 goals and finished with 50 points in his second varsity season. Tyler Tomberlin, a senior, was one of the most prolific scorers in the state with 65 points and 39 assists. Junior Tyler Vold contributed 32 assists and finished with 42 points.
Senior goalie Ryan Olson excelled between the pipes to finish with a 2.45 goals against average and .907 saves percentage in 27 games. Manney said coming into the season goalie was a question mark on the minds of several hockey folks but he knew Olson would rise to the challenge.
“Zach’s experience really helped but you have to include Ryan Olson in that mix too… with him in goal, it was a strength for us along with rest of the defensemen.”
Andover continued to lower the program record for goals against from 64 (in 2011-12 and 2012-13) to just 57 goals in 27 games.
Manney gave credit to fellow Moorhead native (Class of 2005) and second-year assistant coach Barta for the consistently strong defensive play. Barta worked with the special teams and defense after helping the Spuds to three straight state high school tournaments before two seasons of junior hockey. He was a top defenseman for St. Cloud State from 2007-2011, collecting 28 points and 18 penalty minutes in 115 games across four seasons.
Barta is now a seventh grade science teacher at Northdale Middle School in Coon Rapids.
“We arguably lost the best goalie in the state [Chase Perry] but we gave up even fewer goals,” Manney said, pointing to the effort of the players on the ice and the coaching style of Barta. “Barta is a rising star in the coaching ranks. He’s enthusiastic but really hard on himself and he has high demands for everyone. His intensity and effort really rubs off on the players.
“Our defensemen really learned how to take care of the puck in our end of the rink but also how to break the puck out.”
Tornadoes tops in the classroom
Anoka, coached by Todd Manthey, earned Section 5AA Academic Champions honors with a team grade point average of 3.48.
The mark is the fourth highest in the state among the other section champions, tying Buffalo. Section 3AA champion, East Ridge won the Class AA title with a 3.73 GPA.
Tornadoes coach Todd Manthey said the team GPA was the highest he’s had as a coach.
“It’s just a tribute to those kids and we talk all the time about them being student athletes with the emphasis on the students part,” he said. “They are serious about the academic side and no matter what they do they will be successful.”
According to Manthey, seniors Michael Lane and Travis Mashuga held GPA’s in the 3.8-3.9 range while sophomore Taylor O’Neil maintains a 4.0.
Jason Olson is at