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Luverne Boys Hockey Season Preview

By John Rittenhouse , 12/08/11, 8:00AM CST



Coaches set clear objecttives for LHS hockey boys

By John Rittenhouse

              Luverne co-coaches Tony Sandbulte and Derrick Brown have targeted a clear objective heading into the 2011-12 boys’ hockey season.

              In order be a better team this winter, the Cardinals must play better defense. “The big thing for us is we have to play better defense this year,” Brown stated. “We were the seventh top scoring team in the state last season, but we really didn’t get anything out of it because we didn’t play good defense. I think we will be a lot better on defense. We’re bringing back three of the top four guys who played regular defensive shifts last year. We also have some younger guys ready to step in and we think they’ll play pretty well for us.”

With the offense leading the way, Luverne put together a (17-8-0) record in the 2010-11 season that included an 8-4 mark (third place) in Southwest Conference play. LHS drew the fifth seed for the Section 3A Tournament, but the Cards were eliminated from the field with a 5-1 loss in the quarterfinals.

Six seniors played key roles for the 2010-11 team. Connor Fitzer, Luverne’s leading scorer with 64 points (36 goals and 28 assists), made the All-SWC team as a senior. Classmates Zach Dingmann (15 goals and 32 assists) and Schuyler Swier (11 goals and 28 assists) drew SWC honorable mention honors as forwards, and Collin Rofshus, Josh Connell and Austin Eeten logged playing time as defensemen.

“We lost our three top forwards from last year, so we’ll miss the scoring they gave us,” Sandbulte said. “They were hard-working kids who played three years of varsity hockey, so we’ll miss their experience, too.”

With 28 players to choose from (seven seniors, six juniors, 13 sophomores and two freshmen), the LHS coaches have some options in the task of replacing last year’s seniors. The list includes 13 returning letter winners, one All-SWC  selection and two experienced goalies.

“These kids bring a lot of energy to practice. They’re excited for the season,” Sandbulte offered.

Working with volunteer assistant coach Matt Lais, a former LHS goalie, the Cards appear to be in good shape in terms of net-minding.

Sophomore Kendall Meyer (7-6 record, .876 save percentage and a 3.26 goals against average) and senior Austin Van Santen (6-0 record, .095 save percentage and a 1.67 goals against average) are experienced goalies. They form the backline of what is expected to be a muchimproved defense.

Brown, who mentors the LHS defenders, plans to open the season with three different defensive tandems. Junior Austin Maxwell (eight goals and 15 assists), who made the All-SWC team as a sophomore, and junior Matthew Sterrett (one goal and nine assists) form one pair of defenders. Senior Brady Dinger (three goals and six assists) and sophomore  Travis Frakes (no prior varsity experience) form another defensive pair, as do first-time varsity players Cole Walgrave (sophomore) and Toby Sengvongxay (freshman).

Other potential defenders include senior letter winner Jeremy Reisdorfer and sophomore Dalton Smeins. Sophomore Andrew Jelken can play as a defenseman, a forward and as a goalie.

With three 30-plus point scorers and one 21-point producer returning to the team, Luverne has some proven scorers back in the ranks.

Juniors Skyler Wenninger (19 goals and 16 assists) and Jonny Solma (13 goals and 20 assists) return as the third- and fourth-leading scorers from last season. They are expected to form a line with sophomore Logan Norman, a first-year varsity player.

Senior Cody Christensen, the team’s captain, leads another line after turning in a 30-point (12 goals and 18 assists) junior season. Senior Chase Hoffman (eight goals and 13 assists) and sophomore Gunnar Olson (no prior varsity experience) form another line with Christensen.

Senior Dylan Skattum (seven goals and nine assists), junior Cole DeSplinter (zero points) and sophomore Jackson Frankenhoff (six goals and 12 assists) are three returning letter winners expected to form another line.

Other potential forwards include senior Steven Verhey, junior Ryan Krueger, sophomores Jordan Dingmann, Bobby Rogers, Joe Baustian, Cody Rofshus, Blake Stegenga and freshman Dalton Wenzel. “We like the depth we have on this team,” Sandbulte said.

“It gives us flexibility to adapt against the teams we’ll be playing. We think we have a lot of guys who can play a significant role for this team.”

The co-coaches list Marshall and Morris-Benson as the teams to beat in the SWC this winter.Two-time defending champion New Ulm, Hutchinson and Litchfield are the Section 3A favorites.

“We want to get to the section semifinals this year. That’s our big goal,” Brown stated. " We also to compete for a the SWC title" Sandbulte added.

 Rock County Star Herald Winter Sports Preview 2011