Hello BHS Class A Hockey Fans!
With the calendar nearly turning to November soon it seemed like it was time to roll out the annual Class A Boys High School Hockey Preseason Rankings. This will be the 30th anniversary of the 1st ever Class A State Tournament which was first played back in 1994. Looking at the preseason projections, the 30th A State Tournament on paper is looking to be maybe one of the best. The top two to three teams don’t appear to have as wide of gap between them and the rest of the field like in recent years, depending on who is returning as those questions still need to be answered, and with section realignments and new class classifications we could have our first ever A Tourney where 7 of the 8 Section Champions will be Top 10 teams. This all could line up to make an incredible Class A Tourney and dare I say it maybe even an entertaining Wednesday Quarterfinal Round. Regardless, the Class A Friday Semis and Saturday A Final have been great games of recent memory and year number 30 looks like one of the more competitively balanced we have seen in recent memory for Class A!
1- Hermantown (7A)
Head Coach- Pat Andrews 7th year, (142-22-9)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (27-3-0) Section 7A Champion and took 3rd Place in Class A
Hawks Outlook- The Hawks were hit hard by graduation this offseason but as we learned by now this is a program that just reloads and should be a top team again in Class A. Hermantown returns a great core but questions surround the return of their star and D1 commit Senior Dallas Vieau who was their leading scorer last year with 23 goals and 50 points overall, if he is indeed back for the USHL, which is the latest news on the situation, the Hawks will have plenty of scoring power up front. Add in Seniors Joshua Kauppinen & Evan Gunderson along with Junior River Freeman & Sophomore Ford Skytta who are returning to form a core of forwards that accounted for 25% of goals between the 4 of them from last winter and this should give the Hawks a good start to build around up front. The strength of this year’s team though will lie on the backend as they return what looks to be the best D-core in Class as Seniors Will Esterbrooks, Drew Nelson, Weston Bohlman all who played good minutes last year while putting up double digit points and return with loads of experience. Add in recent D1 commit Junior Henry Peterson, who missed most of last year due to injury, and the blueline looks rock solid and the Hawks will be very tough in their own end. If their top tier defense ever were to falter, they have the luxury to be able to rely on one of the top goalies in Class A in Senior Dane Callaway in net who returns with incredible career stats of a (35-4-0) record and a 1.45 GAA and .925 SV% over the last two seasons and loads of big game experience and poise. You also can never discount another wave of good AA Bantams coming up led by standout Sophomore AJ Francisco and Hermantown looks like they will be locked and loaded for another deep run this winter under Coach Andrews as the Hawks will look to win their school’s 5th state title.
2- East Grand Forks (8A)
Head Coach- Tyler Palmiscno 13th year, (216-111-11)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (16-12-0) Lost in Section 8A Championship Game
Greenwave Outlook- This year’s Senior and Junior class for East Grand Forks won back-to-back Bantam A State Titles in youth hockey recently and after two years of having to be second best team up in Northwest Minnesota at the High School level the Greenwave appear ready to breakthrough and be back to State as they have what looks like a very exciting and good team this winter. However, one big potential setback may have happened this offseason as the question of if Senior Brock Schultz will be back is a big one as he is a game changer that this lineup has relied upon to score its goals, tallying 21 last winter along with a team leading 42 points. Regardless, they will still return Seniors Landon Jamieson, Jace Fore, Chase Moe and underclassman Junior Jace Van Eps & Sophomore Cooper Hills who will all be looked upon to build on their double-digit point seasons from last winter and accounted for an impressive 42% of their overall team goal production. They also bring back their top two defenders in Senior Grady Magner & Junior Cole Bies who each had double digit points and bring back lots of experience and skill and Juniors Judd Pesch & Nick Corbett return after having very good 1st years of varsity and will only be better this winter for a deep Greenwave blueline. Add in that they will return goaltender Senior Chase Mero who won 15 games as the starter in net and they have experience in all three phases of their lineup. East Side also will be bringing up another good crew of AA Bantams that includes Sophomores Tucker Lovejoy, Nolan Meulebrock, Cole Schmiedeberg & Jake Chupka to add to the depth both up front and on the blueline to add even more scoring to an already deep lineup and this is the beginning of what could be a serious run of dominance over the next few seasons for Coach Palmiscno and his staff as he will be looking for his 3rd state title in the last decade this winter.
3- St Cloud Cathedral (5A)
Head Coach- Robbie Stocker 3rd year, (32-27-0)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (18-13-0) Section 5A Champion and took 5th Place in Class A
Crusaders Outlook- Cathedral on paper appears to be a team that could be a serious contender this season to make a real run at the Class A state title this winter. Why? Well, the rebuild done by Coach Stocker after the program was left in ruins 3 seasons ago has been remarkable and if you factor in that the Crusaders were an extremely young team last year that got a taste of the State Tournament and ended up winning Consolation and they look absolutely loaded for this upcoming season. They only graduated one senior who played last winter and they return an astounding 93% of their goals from last year and all 9 of their top three line forwards return including their top line of Juniors John Hirschfeld & Joey Gillespie along with Senior Andrew Dwinell who contributed for a combined 60 goals and overall 140 points last year to lead an experienced group. Add to them a lineup card that will also feature Seniors Landon Swenson, Cole Hawg, Ben Petroske & Junior Jaeger Wood, each of whom had 20 points or more last season, and this team will have serious depth up and down all their forward lines to be able to play with any of the top teams in Class A. Toss in on the blueline the return of star youngster Sophomore Griffin Sturm who ran the powerplay and played mega minutes while putting up 23 points as just a freshman defender. He along with fellow defenseman Senior Vince Gebhardt, who returns with double digit points of his own, should help lead an improved d-core this season. The real reason to like this team as a contender to be a Class A Champion pick though is that in the net they return their three year starter Senior Nick Hansen, 17 wins 2.34 GAA & .913 SV% last winter, as he has played nearly every minute the last two years as their starter and has the ability to steal a game and stop 40-50 shots on any given night. Add it all up and this team looks like it will have a big year and look to gain a top seed at State and be a challenger to win the whole thing come March!
4- Warroad (8A)
Head Coach- Jay Hardwick 12th year, (200-93-13)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (29-1-1) Section 8A Champion and took 2nd Place in Class A
Warriors Outlook- To say it’s been a tough offseason in Warroad would be an understatement as the hockey community was hit hard by the tragic passings of two of its own who were very valued members of this tight knit community. The Warriors will be playing with plenty of emotion this winter and will have a very good team for people to rally around again this winter it appears. They will be led up front by two of the state’s top forwards in Seniors Carson Pilgrim, 52 goals last winter, & Murray Marvin-Cordes, 25 goals last winter, to be one of the top scoring duos in the state. They will need a third teammate which could be emerging Junior Taven James, who had 24 points as sophomore last winter, to make up another dominant top line for the state to fear again this season. Defensively they will return a lot of experience as they bring back 3 of their top 4 defenseman as Seniors Ryan Lund, 47 points last winter, & Will Hardwick along with promising big Sophomore Broden Hontvet return. They all saw big minutes last year and should provide a very good core to build another rock solid D-core around again this year. That being said, the Warriors will have big questions to answer with the biggest being who will fill the tremendous void left in the net and they as always appear to have plenty of questions surrounding their overall depth. However, look for Juniors Smiley Hennum & Draydin Johnson from the JV to step in along with a solid group of A Bantams coming in with youngsters Ryan Shaugabay, Sam Hard & Mason Reed ready to help. Add in the tradition that is carried by wearing black and gold sweaters and Warroad should have more than enough top end skill and talent to make another run returning to the Tourney for the third straight year under the direction of Coach Hardwick who will be on the bench with a heavy heart this winter.
5- Mahtomedi (4A)
Head Coach- Jeff Poeschl 30th year, (479-294-22)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (23-8-0) Section 4A Champion and won the Class A State Championship
Zephyrs Outlook- The Defending State Champion Zephyrs were hit hard by graduation and lost some of their top young and upcoming players to Hill Murray, but even with those factors we can no longer discount a program that has won two of the last four Class A titles. There is still a good core leftover from last year’s championship crew. Offensively they return underclassmen Sophomore Jimmy Egan who is poised to build off his impressive 21 point freshman campaign and comes into the season off an impressive offseason. He along with Senior Jake Hodd-Chlebeck, who had 11 goals and 22 points last year and was very good this fall in Elite League, & Senior Patrick Egan, 8 goals and 16 points last winter, have good varsity experience to build upon and they will be leaned on heavily to produce. Also, Coach Poeschl always seems to churn out a new batch of hard working forwards that are underrated and will be dedicated to running their systems. On defense there is alot to like as they return Seniors William Brummel, Wyatt Tarnowski & Cole Swanson who all saw good minutes last year and had a combined 35 points from the backend on their championship run. They along with their talented captain Junior Sam Harris, 20 points last winter, will be a solid D-core to build around and be fundamentally sound as always in their end. They will also be able to count on the return of athletic netminder Senior Charlie Brandt back in net who now has championship pedigree and knows how to carry his team come March. The defending champs have more than enough left in the cupboard to have another very good team again this season and should be a lock to win 4A yet again and have a chance to play a tough AA filled schedule to be ready to defend their Class A Title come tourney time like always.
6- Northfield- (1A)
Head Coach- Mike Luckraft 10th year, (161-70-9)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (23-7-0) Section 1A Champion and Class A State Tournament Participant
Raiders Outlook- Northfield is returning a good chunk of talent from their very successful Section 1A Championship team a year ago and will look to be heavy favorites to win Section 1A again this winter and return to state this winter. While they did get hit by the early defection of Cayden Munson and transfer of Junior Brayden Olsen the Raiders are still returning an excellent core of forwards as they bring back Seniors Kamden Kaiser, Jake Geiger, Andrew Winter and Juniors Will Cashin & Griffin Kennelly who all have shown production in the past, as each had double digit points last year, and combined they scored an eye popping 97 goals last winter. Add in youngsters Michael Steward & Christian Whiteman coming up from A Bantam team after leading them to a 6th Place finish at State this past winter and both looking to make immediate impacts and there are lots of scoring options and depth available to the Raiders to make them a tough matchup for any other southern program to match. On defense they have two good offensive defenseman back in Senior Ty Frank, 31 points last winter, and Sophomore Bridger Riley, 19 points last winter, to build a good skating puck moving d-core around. The big question mark will be in net as they lost their phenomenal goalie to graduation, that will be the key answer for this team to answer and as it looks like on paper their only noticeable hole. However, it appears the Raiders are primed for another Section Title run in 1A under the leadership of Coach Luckraft and should be a top contender and a mainstay in the Class A Top Ten rankings all winter long again this year.
7- Orono (2A)
Head Coach- Sean Fish 2nd year, (24-7-0)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (24-7-0) Section 2A Champion and took 4th Place in Class A
Spartans Outlook- Yes, I know this may feel a bit high for some in the rankings as the Spartans did lose some big pieces to graduation from last year’s Section Champion and 4ht place finisher in the offseason. However, a deeper look at this team will show that they do return a good core of Seniors who should make Orono contenders again this winter. Offensively they return five Seniors Cayden Effertz, Easton Sankey, Tommy Lewin, Brooks Fegers & Sam Setnicker from the top 3 lines last year and produced 39% of their overall goals as a team last year. Also look for Junior Trey Landa & Sophomore Jackson Knight to step up from the JV and make an immediate impact as well. While they did lose their top two goal scorers this year’s groups will use a more team approach to production and they will bring plenty of grit and toughness for Coach Fish to build another tough nosed team around. Defensively they did lose Brody Finnegan to an early departure but they return 4 of their top 6 defenseman as Seniors John Engebretson, Joey Mugaas, Rylan Schultz & Sophomore Luca DeCubellis return who produced a combined 74 points last year from the blue line and saw good minutes and this is will be an experienced D-core to build another Class A contender around. They will need to have a goalie step up but they did have a very good JV and with lots of seniors returning with varsity experience under their belt this looks to be another tough veteran Spartan group to make one more good run at it in Class A again before the program will need to go through a little bit of rebuild down the road.
8- Delano (2A)
Head Coach- Gerrit van Bergen 10th year, (174-75-4)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (15-13-0) Lost in Section 2A Championship Game
Tigers Outlook- The Tigers have become a Class A blueblood program over the last decade and when it comes to the preseason rankings Delano always seems like a program that needs to be included in the annual Top 10. Coach van Bergen and his staff can always be counted on to build a well coached unit that will be playing their best hockey come section time that will generally be able to make a good playoff run. Delano does have a nice core returning as forwards Senior Teague Collings and Juniors Mason Hargarten & Bryce Peterson are back up front and bring 30% of the team’s overall goals scored with them to build around. They also are bringing in a very good core of youngsters who are coming off taking 2nd place in State at the A bantam level. Look for Sophomores Daniel Halonen, Andrew Bruett, Brody Geislinger & Jacob Parlich to all contend for playing time as they each have good puck skill and should add to more goals being scored by the Tigers this year. They also return key contributors on defense as Senior Brayden Coppin & Junior Aaron Halonen return to lead the way with lots of experience and toughness on the blueline. If you add in, goaltender Senior Ethan Engelmann is back who got some good experience last year along with up and coming Sophomore Evan Geyen who backboned the A Bantams to the State Title Game this past winter and overall it looks like more than enough to label this proven program a main contender in Class A like always.
9- Alexandria (6A)
Head Coach- Josh Meyers 4th year, (44-32-4)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (15-14-1) Section 6A Champion and took 6th Place in Class A
Cardinals Outlook- After a dreadful start to their year this past season the Cardinals were able to rebound in a big way and for the second time in Coach Meyers three year tenure ended up in St Paul and placed 6th Place at State. This winter the Cards will need to reload as they were again hit hard by graduation and Northstar Christian Academy cherry picking very good local players from their youth program but they still have a nice Senior core returning to build another good team around as they attempt to make it three years in a row playing down at the Xcel. Offensively, Seniors Leo Kompelien, Gavin Olson, Evan Anderson, Caleb Lind return from the top 3 lines to bring back with them 34% of this past seasons goal production and lots varsity experience to build off of. On defense they return Seniors Jack Lamski, Gage Castle & Bennett Olsen who all played good minutes as top 6 defenseman and have experience in big games and should really help with getting the team out of their own end. Alexandria will need a goalie again, which proved to be a big issue last season, but they have a solid AA Bantam crew coming up as youngsters Brody Berg, Evan Klimek & Jack Van Bruggen should all make big impacts and fill in the holes left by graduation and the Cardinals should be the favorite again in 6A and be a Top 10 contender as they have been in previous years.
10- Cloquet/Esko/Carlton (7A)
Head Coach- Shea Walters 6th year, (60-58-4)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (15-9-1) Lost in Section 7AA Quarterfinals
Jacks Outlook- Welcome to Class A Lumberjacks! Fresh off a 15 win season in Class AA Cloquet/Esko/Carlton for the first time in program history drops down to 7A after many years in 7AA and should be a main contender in Class A this winter. The Jacks return their top scorer in Senior Joseph Antonutti who had 15 goals last winter, add in having a nice core of Seniors Jace Stewart, Ethan Kilichowski, Ryan Jones all having double digit points last winter which should help create scoring depth up front. CEC will also look for bigger years out of Juniors Bobby Thornton & Grady Knutson and they are excited about big framed Sophomores Neil Ellsmore & Connor Sullivan to help contribute to the physical and heavy style that allowed the Jacks to be competitive in AA even when their talent didn’t match up. On the blueline they return two star defensemen in Junior Karson Young, who had 20 points from the back end, and Sophomore Cole Painovich, who played big minutes as a 9th grader last winter, and they will log tons of minutes on the ice and allow this team to transition well out of their own end all winter. Another bonus as far as players returning is that both goaltenders return as Seniors Caden Kubi & Logan Sickmann are back with plenty of big experience in net and both are coming off solid seasons from a year ago. All this adds up to Coach Sea Walters having a very good Class A team in his 6th year at the helm that will be ranked all season long and will look to try and push the Hawks in their 7A supremacy.
11- Hibbing/Chisholm (7A)
Head Coach- Eric Rewertz 4th year, (40-30-1)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (16-9-1) Lost in Section 7A Semifinals
Bluejackets Outlook- The Bluejackets had an outstanding year last winter but they were hit extremely hard by graduation as they lost 6 of their top 7 returning leading scorers, nearly 90 % of their goals and their three year starting goalie all to graduation. So why will some still say this team should be even higher in this rankings? Because Hibbing/Chisholm is going to be one of the best young teams in the state this winter. They will be one of the more interesting teams in Class A to watch this year as there is no denying they are going to be very talented. However, they lack experience at the varsity level and could experience some growing pains along the way. They will lean on the few returning players they have in defenseman Senior Christian Edmonds and forwards Senior Jack Gabardi & Junior Jace Kampsula who each had double digit points last year. As we know they have a great incoming group of A Bantams headlined by forwards Tate Swanson, Isaiah Hildenbrand, Kelin Elsner, Benjamin Galli, Hunter Gustavsson & Joey Gabardi and solid defenders Jackson Strukel, Ethan Sundvall, Landon Krampotuch & Mason Mcdonald all of whom contributed to excellent youth teams the past few winters and recently went to back to back State tournaments and won the A Bantam State Title last season. The future is bright for this traditional program and how quickly those youngsters can adapt to varsity hockey will be a very fun story to follow this winter.
12- Thief River Falls (8A)
Head Coach- Tim Bergland 19th year, (281-198-16)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (10-16-1) Lost in Section 8A Semifinals
Prowlers Outlook- The Prowlers are coming off a very disappointing year last winter where they finished well below .500 and struggled mightily throughout the season to find any consistency. However, they have plenty of reason for optimism and should be much improved this year. They played a very young lineup last year and they return 12 of their top 13 scorers from last year, many who will be Seniors and they will play the tough and structured style that will lead to success. Thief River Falls will have a strong trio of Seniors in Max Arlt, Braydin Lund up front & Defender Senior Jace Erickson returning all who had over 20 points last winter and made up 60% of the teams overall production. The Prowlers will need to get more out of Juniors Rylan Leake & Paul Anderson who are year older after good first years at the varsity level last season and they will look for Sophomore Bennett Borgen to come in and contribute to a very veteran lineup. On top of returning nearly everyone from last year’s lineup card returning, Thief River Falls also brings back their starting goaltender Senior Connor Roff who has been outstanding this fall in the Elite League and could be a very big problem for teams to score on. Looking at all that the Prowlers have coming back it should give Coach Bergland more than enough to build another contender around and look for a big bounce back year from the Prowlers this season.
13- Minneapolis (2A)
Head Coach- Joe Dziedzic 12th year, (153-117-13)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (16-9-2) Lost in Section 2A Semifinals
The 612 Outlook- The boys from the 612 have proven over the last few seasons that they should always now be considered a stable contender year after year in Class A. After a slow start this past winter Minneapolis under the guidance of NHL alumni and veteran Coach Joe Dziedzic rallied and went an impressive (15-5-2) in their last 22 games and found themselves back in the Class A Top 15 by season’s end. Much of that success could be attributed to the growth of their younger players, many of whom are returning this year. This Minneapolis team will look to get off to a better start and could be a good darkhorse pick to get all the way back to the X this winter. A big question for this team will be how the blueline looks as Hank Davis will not return for his senior year and they will be an inexperienced defensive unit overall. However, up front they look to have one of the better offensive attacks is Class A as they return Seniors Ozzie Snodgrass, John Bebler, Ronan Davis, Cooper Cirone and Juniors Nick Anderson & Matthew Walsh all who had very productive years and has at least double digit points last winter and that core of forwards bring back 43% of the team goals to make this Minneapolis team dangerous up front. In net goaltender Senior Mike Shroat returns after having a very good season last winter, 1.95 GAA and .909 SV%, and they need him to be big again early as they break in some new defenseman. Minneapolis will again be a contender all year in Class A and a very dangerous team to watch all season and should stack up a good amount wins and be in the Top 20 discussion all season.
14- Northern Lakes (6A)
Head Coach- Erik Vetsch 4th year, (25-45-0)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (12-15-0) Lost in Section 6A Semifinals
Lightning Outlook- The Lightning look like a team that should be on a serious upswing this winter. After an up and down start to the year last season that saw a young Lightning team grow and figure themselves out late in the year. Now this year Northern Lakes returns what looks like a loaded lineup that includes serious scoring punch up front at forward in Senior Logan Verville along with Juniors Easton Anderson, Jerome Martin & Finnegan Fogarty all who had double digit goals on the year last winter and they are returning 60% of their goal scoring just between those four snipers. They will also get a big boost from the return Senior Taylor Berg, back from AAA after having 35 points as Sophomore, and Junior Drew Paulbeck, back from injury missing most of last year after leading the A Bantam team in scoring as a 9th grader, and add in young sniper Jacob Peterson who comes in looking to contribute right away and this offense is scary. Defensively, Senior Isaac Peterson is as good as it gets on the blue line and has three years of experience and should be one of the top players in the area and they will also return youngster Junior Wyatt Balmer who is coming off a very productive year of his own. They will need more stable play from goaltender Senior Nigel DeSanto but he does have two years of varsity experience and they also have Sophomore Hunter Moreland ready to shine after a very good winter in the net last year at the youth level. This group of Juniors placed 2nd in A Bantam two winters ago and really improved as last year that along and with what returns makes this a team to watch in Class A and they will make a serious run at State.
15- Monticello (5A)
Head Coach- Eric Nelson 9th year, (134-82-9)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (16-10-1) Lost in Section 5A Semifinals
Moose Outlook- The Moose have become a Class A program that should never be counted out as over the last 7 years they have made 4 trips to the State Tournament. They are coming off another solid season from last year but Monticello will have some lineup holes to fill left by graduation but they do return Seniors Roman Thompson & Gunnar Simon along with Junior Landen Scherber which will give them experience up front as all three of them had over 20 points on the year last winter. They will also be looking for immediate contribution from Junior Nathan Poeppel and Sophomores Liam O’donnell & Ashton Stoll who were offensive catalysts for an A Bantam team that took 3rd place in State last winter. On defense they return Senior Cameron Schmitz & Junior Aidan Widmark who both had double digit points on the back end and they will be bringing in Sophomores Levi Welle & Brady McGriff who both have size and good offensive skill to build a good d-core around. Monticello also returns goaltender Senior Owen Soderholm who was very strong as the starter last winter winning 16 games and sporting a .915 SV% to be steadying force in the net. The Moose will have plenty of pieces for Coach Nelson to build another contender with and make another competitive Class A team and make a run as always at the Tourney.
16- Little Falls (5A)
Head Coach- Joey Hanowski 3rd year, (39-14-2)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (18-9-1) Lost in Section 5A Championship Game
Flyers Outlook- The Flyers were once again hit hard by graduation this offseason after coming up just short in 5A. Little Falls has been a perennial Top 10 Class A team over the past few seasons but depth issues have thwarted potential State Tournament bids the last two winters as they were upset in the Sectional as the #1 seed. Depth concerns will again be an issue for Little Falls looking at the early season lineup card. However, Coach Hanowski does have some really good individual pieces to build with that should allow them to remain competitive and not be overlooked this winter. Up front Senior Carter Oothoudt & Junior Joey Welinski return and this dangerous duo had 44 goals and 41% of the team overall production just between the two of them. They also have back Junior Ryan Oothoudt & Sophomore Remi Chisholm who are a year older and will look to build off very good double digit point seasons as underclassmen last winter and be bigger pieces this year. Defender Junior Luke Avery will be back to start to rebuild a D core around which will be a big question mark for the Flyers to answer. However, Little Falls will also have outstanding goaltending as Sophomore Goalie Izaak Kalis, 2.17 GAA and .922 SV%, will return in net and keep the Flyers in games all winter and there is enough top end talent here for Little Falls to build another good team around and be a contender again in Class A.
17- Detroit Lakes (8A)
Head Coach- Ben Noah 5th year, (60-31-5)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (17-8-1) Lost in Section 8A Semifinals
Lakers Outlook- The Lakers will look to continue to build their program and challenge the Big Three in 8A but they were hit hard by graduation this offseason. Detroit Lakes does return their star youngster up front in Sophomore Easton Kennedy who had 17 goals and 34 points as 9th grader last year and he will be joined by classmates Sophomores Carter Whitworth & Will Cymbaluk who are looking to step in and help add to the scoring efforts this winter as both are coming into the varsity fresh off prolific A Bantam careers. The Lakers will also return Senior Cole Deraney and Junior Easton Wahl who both put up double digits points last winter and they will be given bigger roles this year. They will also return some good top end talent back on the blueline as well as they return the defensive duo of Juniors Jace Fields & Tommy Suckert on the blueline both who had 20 plus points as Sophomores from the backend and will look to only be even better this season. Add in Senior Dalton Songstad, who is transferring in after getting minutes with Moorhead last winter, and another good youngster ready to contribute in Sophomore Hudson Pettit and the Lakers should have a solid D core. There will be questions though on filling in the rest of the depth and who they will have in net but there looks to be a solid core for Coach Noah to continue to build around as they build up their program and continue to be a contender in Class A this winter.
18- Proctor (7A)
Head Coach: Jeff Laspi, 4th year, (32-38-2)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (13-13-0) Lost in Section 7A Quarterfinals
Rails Outlook- The Rails are looking like a team that could surprise many this winter and have a big year and pull off a major upset or two along the way. Proctor returns elite goaltender Senior AJ Reyelts, 2.34 GAA & .926 SV% last year, who has the ability to win a game by himself every night he takes the net. They also return an impressive 7 of their top 9 scorers from last winter including forwards Juniors Tanner Ross & Austin Bryant who as sophomores last winter led the team in scoring as they combined for 66 points and if you add in Seniors Wyatt Meineheine & Ethan Carter each who had double digit points the Rails should have good scoring punch. On the blueline they bring an experienced and productive defensive core led by Seniors Carson Pavlowich, Nolan Okstad & Cooper Johnson all of whom had double digits points individually and contributed an impressive 51 points combined from the backend. Add in upcoming Sophomores Cam Solem & Breckin Ross both who are viewed to be ready to contribute right away and Proctor will be a definite team to keep an eye on as they should be in line to have one of the best seasons in a long time be a very dangerous team this winter for the upcoming season.
19- Southwest Christian/Richfield (4A)
Head Coach- Paul Ranheim 2nd year, (12-9-5)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (12-9-5) Lost in Section 2A Quarterfinals
Stars Outlook- The Stars were moved into Section 4A using their Richfield address and appear to be the top contender to be in the Section Final this upcoming winter. Southwest Christian/Richfield looks to have a very good team this season, as this program has been building over the last few years, and seems primed to make not only the program’s first ever Section Semifinal but its first ever Section Final which both seem very achievable in their new section home. The reason for the optimism is what returns to a roster that came on strong last year and the Stars return 7 of their 9 learning scorers. Up front Seniors Jared Greiner, Eli Hoffman, Kaden Feltmann, Owen Zick & Junior Paul Hornor are all back having double digit points and scored over 52% of their goals last winter. On the Blueline, Senior Kael Lundquist and Sophomore Tate Hardacre, who had a great Elite League, are back with double digit points. Then add in they return 6 ‘6 goaltender Senior Jannes Kamp and his .915 SV% will keep Southwest Christian in every game. Add in newcomer Freshman Bennet Breuer ready to make immediate impact and it looks like a good year for this young program to make a splash in the rankings and power structure of Class A.
20- Luverne (3A)
Head Coach- Phil Paquette 8th year, (112-70-2)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (21-8-1) Section 3A Champion and Class A State Tournament Participant
Cardinals Outlook- This version of Roll Cards Roll will look to make consecutive state tourney berths for the first time in their programs history. Luverne is returning loads of talent and on paper appear to be the favorites in 3A this winter as they return Seniors Patrick Kroski, Owen Sudenga, Elliot Domagala and Sophomore Maddux Domagala up front who all had big numbers and will return 47% of the team’s goals just between the four of them for a team that primarily plays two lines. Add in top returning defenseman Junior Blaik Bork who is an elite young player in the Southwest Corner of the State having nearly 40 points of his own from the blueline, he along with Senior Henry Hartquist will bring back good experience on the blueline this winter. The Cardinals also return senior goaltender Senior Tyler Arends who has 2 full years of varsity experience under his belt and has played nearly every minute asn has tons of experience and poise. They should have some help on the way to maybe build some depth this winter as their A Bantam team that went to Regions and this team again should be very good and have a good chance to return to state for the 4th time and the last decade under the direction of Coach Pauqette who has built an outstanding program at his alma mater.
Next Five Notable Teams-
Fergus Falls (6A)
Head Coach- Mike Donoghue 20th year, (241-214-36)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (14-11-2) Lost in Section 6A Championship Game
Otters Outlook- The Otters have had some of the top teams in all of Class A over the last three years but have come up just short of the X losing in three consecutive Section Finals, many of them in heartbreaking overtime fashion. Fergus should have another good team this winter as they return 4 of their top 6 scorers including forwards Seniors Kellen Stenstrom, Shane Zierden, & Junior Jack Welde who made up 51% of their overall goals so they will bring back scoring punch up front. On defense Senior Leighton Buckmeier returns with double digit points from last winter. They will have a big question mark to replace in net but if they can find an answer there and fill the holes with their depth and on the blueline this should be another good contending year in Class A for the Otters who will look to get back to the Section Final yet again but this year push through to St Paul.
Head Coach: Matt Telecky, 20th year, (211-272-17)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (12-15-0) Lost in Section 2A Quarterfinals
Tigers Outlook- If you are looking for a sleeper team this winter to surprise everyone in Class A look no further than the Tigers as they return a ton of good young talent from a dangerous team that a year ago nearly shocked the state as they took mighty Orono to Overtime in the 2A Quarterfinals. Hutch will return a big core of young guns from that team who as youngsters put a good scare into many of the Class A teams they faced last year. Juniors Manny Pearce, Emmett Reiter, Toren Miller & Easton Mallak are all back after very productive sophomore seasons. This group of Hutch Juniors accounted for 54% of the team’s goals scored last year as young Sophomores. One can only believe that a year older we can expect even bigger seasons as they have matured and this will be a team to keep an eye on moving forward in Class A overall.
Providence Academy (2A)
Head Coach: Chris Lewis, 4th year, (42-24-1)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (14-12-0) Lost in Section 2A Quarterfinals
Lions Outlook- The Lions were last year’s hot pick to make a surprise state tournament appearance but throughout the year they struggled with consistency and keeping the puck out of their own net. Despite having one of the scariest offensive attacks in Class A last winter Providence Academy was the biggest upset victim in sections, falling as 2 seed in the Quarterfinal round. Much of this year’s team success will depend on Sr. Louie Wehmann, while he is currently playing in the NAHL, but have been told it is a before and after situation and he will return after scoring 44 goals last winter and he will be a potential Mr Hockey Finalist. If you add in the return of Seniors Sammy Lewis & Brandon Sattler, the teams 3rd & 6th leading scorer, and the Lions will try to again out score teams. On the backend they also bring back Jr. Jesse Varner, the teams 5th leading scorer, who had 20 pts. last year from the blue line but after that there will be a lot of question marks everywhere else especially on the depth side and in the net.
New Ulm (3A)
Head Coach: Ryan Neuman, 9th year, (136-67-7)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (23-4-1) Lost in Section 3A Championship Game
Eagles Outlook- For the second year in a row the Eagles were unable to get over the hump as they were taken down in the section final. Injuries played a massive role in this and they will return a good team and be hungry to take that final step and back to the X for the first time since 2019. Up front they return their dynamite line of Seniors Austin Uecker, Kaden Larson, & Bryer Lang who were the teams three leading scorers with a combined for 148 pts. between the three of them. They also return Jr. Ian Brudelie who chipped in double digit goals of his own as a youngster last year. Add in the return of their starter in net Sr. Bryer Hoffmann who had a very good season last year and they will need him to be good early as they graduated nearly their entire d-core. This Eagle version looks very good again and they will be looking to finally punch that ticket to state this winter!
Dodge County (1A)
Head Coach: Andrew Wilcox & Bryce Wilcox, 2nd Year, (16-10-0)
Last Year’s Record and Finish: (16-10-0) Lost in Section 1A Semifinals
Wildcats Outlook- Dodge County should not be discounted in Class A this winter. The Wildcats return 6 of their top 7 scorers from a year ago of a team that won 16 games. They are led up front by a dangerous scoring duo of Jr. Brett Ludvigsen & Sr. Gryffon Funke who combined had 53 goals and over 100 pts last winter. They should also have scoring depth as they return Jr. Dylan Klomps & Soph. Jeremiah Peterson-Gordon who both had double digit points and saw top 6 minutes as youngsters last winter. On the defense Seniors Bronson Freerksen & Caeden Smith are both are back having double digit points from the back end to bring experience there and they also return Sr. Goalie Jackson Roethler who won 12 games last year and will have lots of experience to help lead what looks like a very good Dodge County crew.