Although it may not have been a winning season, with its 9-16-2 record, the Waconia boys’ hockey team has a lot to be proud of in 2013.
Not only did the Wildcats face their most competitive schedule to date, they finished fifth in the conference behind four state-ranked teams (2-9-1 record), and won their first ever playoff game.
Head coach Dan Benham said he was especially proud of the way the Wildcats played as a team all season.
“This was out most competitive schedule so far,” he said. “I am impressed how the boys continued to play hard and as a team even when things weren’t going our way.”
The Wildcats struggled with inconsistency in the early weeks of the season and left some wins on the ice, but overall improved as a unit and were able to defeat St. Louis Park in the first round of Section 2A play in a 4-0 shutout, the ‘Cats first of the season.
The Wildcats advanced to play the No. 1 seeded Breck Mustangs and lost that game 6-1.
During the regular season, Waconia picked up wins against St. Louis Park, Richfield, Robbinsdale Cooper, St. Peter, Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, Minnehaha Academy, Hutchinson, and New Ulm. They tied 3-3 against Chaska on Jan. 19 and 2-2 versus Delano Jan. 29.
This year, Waconia will graduate a large group of seniors, who have been staples of the program for the last four years. Forwards Tanner Riebel, Kyle Kauma, Ryan Mattson, Alec Bohman, Justin Reinke, Brady Turner, Nick Henninger, and Christian Roddy, along with defenseman Ben Kullman and goalie Nathan Kovach will all leave places on the team to be filled.
Benham said he hates to see this particular group of seniors leave, but knows they will go on and succeed.
“We’re losing a lot of senior leadership, ice time and scoring,” he said. “This is a great group of young men that brought Waconia hockey to a very competitive level.”
In their wake, the graduating Wildcats leave a large group of juniors that will step up, including Tony Fulkerson, Kevin Kittleson, Chris Haus, Blaine Wilsey, Alex Tasson, Jeff Balow, Nik Bohman, Sam Schiffman, Alex Fortwengler, Matt Molinari, Seamus Sullivan, Jake Reuben, Cody Wiese, Steven Ladouceur, Nick Andrew, and Gunner Nagy.
“We’re not necessarily looking for one or two players to step up,” Benham said. “Instead, would like to see the collective group take control and come into next season with multiple players raising their game to the next level.”
Benham thanks the players, parents, and community for all their continued support of the burgeoning Wildcat hockey program.
This season, the Wildcats netted 84 goals in their 27 games. Top scorers included Riebel (25 goals), Mattson (13), Reinke (10), and Fortwengler (10).
This year’s All-Conference honors went to Ryan Mattson and Tanner Riebel, with Justin Reinke, Nathan Kovach, and Kevin Kittleson receiving All-Conference Honorable Mentions.
Team awards went to Tanner Riebel (Most Valuable Player, Most Valuable Forward); Ben Kullman (Most Valuable Defense); Sam Schiffman (Most Improved); Cal Rassman (Rookie Award); Joey Scarrella (Unsung Hero); Ryan Mattson (Wildcat Award, Hobey Baker Character Award).
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com