With 13 seniors and eight of their top-10 returning scorers back, the Buffalo boys’ hockey squad has high expectations heading into the 2016-17 season.
Aaron Johnson returns for his fourth year as head coach. The past three years he’s relied heavily on four of Buffalo’s most experienced seniors in Cade Stensby, Blake Habisch, Tom Rooney, and Nick Mueller. All four will serve this season as team captains.
“Those guys have been with the varsity team since 10th grade, and have played significant roles each year,” said Johnson, who added his father, Bruce, to this year’s coaching staff, a staff that already includes his brother, Thomas.
Stensby led the team in scoring a year ago with 28 points in 21 games.
Injuries and inconsistent play hampered Buffalo a year ago to a disappointing 11-12-3 overall record, and a 5-0 first-round playoff exit at Moorhead.
After missing the majority of his sophomore season with injury, Habisch led the squad a year ago with 13 goals and finished fourth on the team in scoring with 25 points. Rooney missed 10 games a year ago to injury, but still recorded eight points in 16 games.
The three hope to give Buffalo two reliable scoring lines. Stensby has opened practice playing with seniors Luke Ramsey and Stone Goodmanson. Habisch and Rooney will skate on the Bison’s second line with a player yet to be determined.
“We’ve all been playing together for a long time,” Stensby said. “I know what we’re capable of. With all our senior skill, we’re hoping we can win a couple games in the section and go somewhere.”
The Bison will rely heavily on offense from senior forward Cade Stensby, who registered 28 points on 7 goals and 21 assists last season. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)
Stensby has especially high hopes for himself. He spent this past fall playing for two teams in the Elite League. He registered two assists in three playoff games for Team CCM.
It was his first experience playing in the Elite League. He hopes to use that to jump-start a Buffalo offense that struggled at times a year ago to put the puck in the net.
“It was a lot of fun and great experience to skate with the best kids in the state,” Stensby said. “To know I can play with kids like that gives me more confidence to make plays against high school teams.”
Seniors John McNamara, Connor Kuhlmann, Carter Patnode and Mateo Johnson also have experience up front.
“Those guys will have a chance to increase their role,” said Aaron Johnson. “We have high expectation for this group. We play a very tough schedule this year and we hope that the senior experience allows us to compete with some of the top teams in the state.”