Minnesota High School Hockey: 2023-24 Section 2A Preseason Preview

Most Class A Sections lack the top to bottom depth to make both Semifinal matchups competitive let alone have any good Quarterfinal matchups. That is not the case in Section 2A which has traditionally been the toughest Section top to bottom over the last decade in Class A. Last year it did not disappoint having the #7 seed upset the #2 seed and the #8 seed take the eventual section champion to overtime. The new MSHSL realignment did shrink the number of teams in 2A from 12 to 8 but the competitiveness should remain the same. Defending champion Orono brings back a lot of varsity experience in their big senior class. We all know Delano will be well coached and primed for section run in February. Minneapolis came on strong last year and has a very solid squad coming back in the 612 area code. Hutchinson had a serious youth movement last year and looks to be a sleeper top team in all of Class A this winter. Add in the private schools of Providence Academy & Breck who could be contenders depending on who is in or out on those rosters and this section looks to be as deep as ever and any of the top 6 teams could do some damage and make a run at the Section 2A Crown.

Section 2A Preseason Poll (8 Teams)

1- Orono

2- Delano

3- Minneapolis

4- Hutchinson

5- Providence Academy

6- Breck

7- Mound Westonka

8- Litchfield Dassel Cokato

1- Orono – The Spartans did lose some big pieces to graduation of last year’s Section Champion, but they do return a good core of Seniors to be contenders again this winter.  Offensively they return five Seniors Cayden Effertz, Easton Sankey, Tommy Lewin, Brooks Fegers & Sam Setnicker from the top three lines last year who bring plenty of grit and skill for Coach Fish to build another tough nosed team with. Also look for Junior Trey Landa & Sophomore Jackson Knight to step up from the JV team and make an immediate impact as well. 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 all who saw good minutes and will bring good experience on the backend. They will need to have a goalie step up, but they did have a good JV and with lots of seniors returning with two plus years of varsity experience under their belt this looks to be another tough veteran Spartan group.

2- Delano – The Tigers have become a Class A blueblood program over the last decade and when it comes to the Section 2A Playoffs it is a team and coaching staff that you can count on to make a playoff run. Delano has a nice core returning as forwards Senior Teague Collings and Juniors Mason Hargarten & Bryce Peterson are back up front to build with. 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. On defense Senior Brayden Coppin & Junior Aaron Halonen return to lead the way. If you add in, goaltender Senior Ethan Engelmann is back having got some good experience last year along with up-and-coming Sophomore Evan Geyen who backboned the A Bantams State Title Game run this past winter it looks like more than enough to label this proven program a main contender in 2A like always.

3- Minneapolis – 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. After a slow start this past winter Minneapolis rallied for a torrid red hot second half and found themselves back in the 2A Semifinals. This year’s team will look to get off to a better start and hope for similar results to what they showed in the second half. They could be a good darkhorse pick to get all the way back to the X as Senior Hank Davis returns on defense to lead the blueline group and up front they return Seniors Ozzie Snodgrass & John Bebler and Junior Nick Anderson all who had very productive years for a good core to build around. In net goaltender Senior Mike Shroat returns after having a very good season last winter and this team will again be a top team in Class A and a very dangerous team in Section 2A.

4- Hutchinson – If you are looking for a sleeper team this winter to surprise everyone look no further than the Tigers as they return loads of talent from a dangerous team that a year ago as an 8 seed took eventual section champion Orono to the brink in the Section Quarterfinal overtime classic. Hutch will return a big core of young guns 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 are all back after very productive sophomore seasons. Add to that core Sophomore Elliott Ladwig and those were the team’s 4 leading scorers this past winter as just a 9th grader. One can only believe that a year later and 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 2A and also Class A overall.

5- Providence Academy-  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 Senior Louie Wehmann, while he is currently playing in the NAHL but have heard it is a before and after situation and he will return and be a Mr Hockey Finalist. If you add in Seniors Sammy Lewis & Brandon Sattler the Lions will try to again out score teams. On the backend they do bring back Junior Jesse Varner who had a good year last year but after that there will be a lot of question marks everywhere else especially on the depth side and in the net.

6- Breck- The Mustangs program endured another very tough year losing again in the Sectional Playoff Play-in Round and failed to advance to the Section Quarterfinals for the second consecutive year a far cry from the glory years of this one Class A dynasty. Breck should be able to improve on this last year’s 7 win season as they return 13 seniors including Senior Nate Miller & Paddy Greene along with Junior Ben Amato who were the 3 of the top 4 leading scorers from last year. They will be looking for immediate contributions from Sophomores Wesley Robbins & Nick Nugent both up front and on the blueline. However, there does continue to be questions and concerns over who will be the goaltender. They did bring in two transfers to try and address this, and how well they perform will be a key factor if this team is going to be a true contender again in 2A with all the experience they bring back up front.

7- Mound Westonka- The White Hawks are in the midst of a program rebuild as evidenced with their 4 win season a year ago. There were some glimmers of hope as they did have upset wins over two Top 20 Class A teams LDC and Two Rivers last year; but it was still a very rough winter overall. Things do look like they could improve this winter as they return Junior August Novack who was the leading scorer and Senior Jackson Henningsgaard the team’s third leading scorer to build around. However, overall, it looks like it will be another rebuilding effort for this squad.

8- Litchfield Dassel Cokato- Speaking of rebuilding efforts the Dragons lost a ton to graduation including their starting goalie who played nearly every minute in net last winter along with 9 of their 10 leading scorers and LDC is going to have plenty of new faces this winter on the ice. It’s going to be a full rebuild here and they will look to build around forward Junior Carson Brummond who is the only returner with double digits points from last winter. After that there will be lots of question marks and opportunities for new players to make their mark in the LDC program this year.