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Nice time for Mahtomedi boys' hockey streak

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 02/08/14, 4:12PM CST


Mahtomedi has strung together good run of hockey to position it for a run at the state tourney.

Trevor Dittberner Picture Place


In a fit of good timing, the Mahtomedi boys’ team has crept into the Class 1A top-10 rankings after putting together a nice stretch of hockey in the past few weeks.

“It’s a good time of year to be able to say that the guys are starting to play some of their best hockey,” coach Jeff Poeschl said. “That’s a positive.”

Through Wednesday, the Zephyrs had amassed a 12-9 overall record and 7-3 conference mark, good enough for third place in the Classic Suburban Conference.

Mahtomedi stumbled a little early in the season with a 3-5 record, including losses against Breck and two of the top Class 2A teams in the state in Hill-Murray and Grand Rapids. The Zephyrs fell to the two big schools by just one goal each, including an overtime loss to the Pioneers.

Mahtomedi relies on their defensive play. When the Zephyrs are playing their best hockey, their top defensive pairings are playing well and taking care of the puck.

Two senior captains, Trevor Dittberner and Jack Buttermore, help stabilize the blue line. Two junior defensemen, Mike Kneale and Zack Taylor, earned valuable experience last year as sophomores. Kneale leads team defensemen in scoring with three goals and 12 assists in 21 games. Sophomore Alex Jensen has stepped in and done a nice job as well.

Sophomore center Jack Becker leads the Zephyrs with 17 goals and has 11 assists for 28 points. Junior linemate Kellen Campbell isn’t far behind with 10 goals and 15 assists. Junior Sam Krawczyk has helped round out the top unit with 19 points of his own.

That’s a nice top line, but it’s the other lines that have helped elevate the overall team play. Poeschl and the coaching staff, after making some tweaks the past couple weeks, are seeing a payoff.

“Sometimes line combinations can be a big chemistry experiment,” Poeschl said. “Right now, they’re really meshing and I like the way they’re playing.”

Senior Truman Slack pivots the second line. Senior captain Tanner Mireault has tallied 17 points playing wing on a second line with senior center Truman Slack. Adding energy and creating a spark is sophomore Jack Heinsch, who was bumped up to the second line.

Sophomore Joe Forciea centers the third line and has added 16 points. Junior Jack Gunderson and sophomore Andrew Kangas bookend him on the wings.

An all-senior fourth line of Kalvin Seidl, Reid Mathson and McQuaid Boo has provided steady play. Poecschl called them “just the ultimate team players.”

Has the team found the right mix?

“We’re hoping they can settle in and get some rhythm and some flow the last couple of weeks here before sections start,’’ Poeschl said. “I’m liking the feel right now and the energy that they’re bringing.”

The strong schedule and meshing combinations are what Mahtomedi is hoping brings them back to the state tournament for the first time since 2010. Section 4 is shaping up to be a three-team race with Mahtomedi, Totino-Grace and St. Paul Academy. The Zephyrs defeated Totino-Grace 4-3 earlier in the season but ran into St. Paul Academy’s hot goalie and suffered a tough loss.

They won’t know for a little while how the section seedings pan out, but they are confident.

“Wherever we land, I think our guys are feeling good,” Poeschl said. “We have the capabilities to get through the section. And right now, that’s goal No. 1.”

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