Talent gets it's chance
Virtually every program in any high school sport enters every new season with the same dilemma: how are we going to replace our senior leaders?
Following a 14-10-1 record the year before, the Dickinson boys hockey team will enter the 2017-18 season having lost nine seniors who played at least 20 games to graduation last year, including their two leading goal scorers in forward/defender Dawson Kram and All-WDA team selection Jerzy Martin.
"As far as for the depth that we've lost, we obviously miss those seniors, but at the same time, we have some kids coming up," Midgets head coach Dallas Kuntz said. "We have a large junior class that's very capable. We have sophomores that already have a year of hockey under their belt. I don't think we'll be able to replace those players we lost, but I also think the dynamic of our team this year is going to be a lot different. For what we lose in senior leadership, we got some talent coming up that I'm pretty excited about."
Their strong junior class will be led by forward Ryan Bren, who last year was third on the team in goals (16) and points (26). Heading the sophomore class is forward Joseph Pavek, who scored eight goals and had nine assists in his freshman campaign, and defender Jaren Hugelen, who played in all 25 games last season as a freshman.
In front of the net, Dickinson will carry three goalkeepers with junior and varsity returner Riley Wittenberg, sophomore Zachary Sprague and junior Jarin Naab, a transfer from Colorado. A starter has yet to be announced, but it's expected to be between Wittenberg and Naab. Whoever it is that ends up in net, Dickinson intends to play a hard-nosed fashion of hockey in front of them.
"I feel that we're going to be a gritty team," Kuntz said. "We are going to be successful when we really play with high energy and physicality. We want to outskate teams, something that we haven't been able to do in the past, but I feel we are capable now. I think our skating is better than it's ever been from top to bottom on our varsity team."
The Midgets enter the season coming off of back to back appearances in the state tournament following a 16-year absence. Despite the turnaround in Dickinson's culture and fortunes, it's clear that there are greater heights to be reached.
"I think a few years back, going back to the middle 2000s, you try to create a culture," Kuntz said. "You start at the youth levels and all the way up through the ages where you have to created a culture where you expect to win. That's a culture that we haven't had for a long time. I think the last two years making it to states was rewarding given the fact that we haven't been there, but that certainly doesn't mean that we are satisfied. We want to take that next step and mentioned with the elite programs in the state."
Dickinson's first opportunity toward becoming a state powerhouse comes Tuesday, Nov. 28 as the Midgets will host Williston at 6:30 p.m. from the West River Ice Center.