The Waconia boys’ hockey team might look a little different next season. With roughly 14 seniors on the varsity and junior varsity squads, the Wildcats are losing much of both their offensive and defensive lines.
“With a group that large we will be definitely be a younger team next season,” WHS head coach Dan Benham said.
He said the coaching staff is looking for some players to work hard over the summer and come ready play at the beginning of the 2014-15 season.
“We also have a big group of players coming up from Bantams, and some of those players will need to step up and fill some roles,” he said.
Fortunately, the Wildcats will also have some varsity experience sprinkled on the lines, as the ‘Cats will return regular varsity forwards Collin Reus, Matt Fulkerson, and Cal Rassman, along with Austin Nichols, Adam Nichols, and Shane Reuben on offense.
Defensively, Nick Molinari, Joe Benson, and Jack Kalenberg will keep the Wildcats’ ice safe.
“We will be returning three of our six defense and some talented forwards,” Benham said. “Hopefully that experience will help lead the incoming players.”
But for now, the Wildcats are saying goodbye to those 14 seniors that have given many years to the team, including a 2013-14 season that had its highs and lows.
The Wildcats started the year with big wins over Red Wing and Lake of the Woods in late November and a three-game streak mid-December.
Just after the first of the year, the ‘Cats hit a bit of a slump, losing five straight games before rebounding in a win over conference foe Hutchinson Jan. 21.
“During the middle of the year we hit a difficult patch, lost a few games in a row,” Benham said. “As a group, players and coaches, we made some minor changes and played our way out or it.”
The Wildcats finished the season 10-16-1 overall, and were 3-8-1 in the Wright County Conference.
Waconia won its first playoff game, a 4-3 victory over St. Louis Park on Feb. 19, before falling to Breck two nights later in the Section 2A tournament.
“Overall the season went well, we played a deep bench and a lot of players were a part of our success,” Benham said. “We started quickly with some quality wins and ended the year with a playoff win.”
Offensively, three Wildcats scored more than 10 goals this season, including Reus (13), Rassman (10), and Fulkerson (10). Sophomore Mitchell Weiland scored nine goals, while seniors Alex Fortwengler, Alex Tasson, and Jake Reuben each scored seven. Assist leaders included Fulkerson (15), Rassman (14), Weiland (12), Reus (9), and Fortwengler (9).
In goal for WHS, senior Steven LaDouceur logged over 650 minutes, going 5-7. He saved 394 shots of 452 attempts for a save percentage of .872. He also had one shut out.
Junior Noah Schrup played 378 minutes in goal and was 2-6. He allowed 37 in 233 attempts for a .841 save percentage. Junior Noah Roddy also tended goal for 252 minutes, was 2-2-1, and allowed just 21 goals in 169 shots for a .876 save percentage.
For their efforts this season, junior Collin Reus was All-Conference, while senior Kevin Kittleson and junior Matt Fulkerson were Honorable Mention.
Team awards were given out at the Wildcats’ annual banquet and included: MVP (Reus), MVP Forward (Fulkerson), MVP Defense (Kittleson), Most Improved (Austin Nichols), Rookie of the Year (Kalenberg), Unsung Hero (senior Blaine Wilsey), and the Wildcat Award/Herb Brooks (senior Alex Tasson).
This year’s seniors include: Nick Andre, Jeff Balow, Alex Fortwengler, Tony Fulkerson, Chris Haus, Kevin Kittleson, Steven LaDouceur, Gunnar Nagy, Joe Nessa, Jake Reuben, Sam Schiffman, Seamus Sullivan, Alex Tasson, Cody Wiese, and Blaine Wilsey.