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DHS opens with high expectations

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson High senior forward Alex Turcotte, left, carries the puck past a couple Bismarck Century defenders during a West Region game on Dec. 7 at the Dickinson Recreation Center.

By Royal McGregor

The Dickinson High boys hockey team had a taste of success.

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There’s no surprise — the Midgets want more.

With a returning core of key players from last season, the Midgets are looking to build off last season. Dickinson has one goal in mind — playing at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in February during the North Dakota state hockey tournament.

“One of our goals is to make the state tournament,” Dickinson senior forward Alex Turcotte said. “Another goal I think we should have is to give every team a challenge. We have a lot of talent and I think we can accomplish a lot this year.”

The Midgets have a new head coach at helm — Dallas Kuntz. Though it’s his first year as the head coach, Kuntz has coached nearly every player on Dickinson’s roster.

After being named the head coach in early August, Kuntz is excited to see what is in store for the Midgets this season. Kuntz makes his coaching debut against Williston at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“Out of the 19 kids on our roster, I’ve coached 17 of them,” he said. “Coaching these kids basically as they grow up — not in hockey — but as young boys to young adults. To be able to have a chance to coach them now, it’s a great privilege. That’s a big reason why I applied for the job was that I could continue coaching these kids.”

The Midgets finished 8-15 overall and 5-11 in the West Region. The eight wins were more than the previous three years combined. Dickinson’s season ended with Mandan scored an overtime goal at the West Region Tournament on Feb. 15.

Dickinson returns 12 of the 20 players from last year’s roster. Dickinson lost six players to graduation, while junior Mickey Folske — the team’s leading scorer with 16 goals and 8 assists — transferred to Bismarck High.

In the senior class, Turcotte is joined by goalie Brett Schweitzer, forward Daniel Honcharenko and defenseman Tim Knudson. The junior class has forward Matt Pavek, who finished second on the team with 10 goals and nine assists, forward Gannon Karsky, defensemen Collin Bren and Tony Kostelecky, while Andrew Heckaman can play either forward or defense.

The two returning sophomores are defenseman Tate Martel and forward Michael McChesney. The sophomore forward had his freshman season cut short after he suffered a broken left arm against Bismarck on Dec. 18. To open the season, McChesney had four goals in two games.

“We should be able to do a lot more this year,” said McChesney, who finished with seven goals and two assists. “We had a great team last year, but I feel we have a great team this year too.

“It was tough not being able to play half the season. I wish I could have played longer, but that happens. You can’t do anything about that.”

After spending his sophomore year playing basketball, Schweitzer returned to the ice with open arms. During his junior season, Schweitzer had the luxury of learning from starting Jamison Gray.

Schweitzer finished with a 5-2 record in net with an 87 save percentage and 2.18 goals against average. Though he was a backup last year, the senior goalie is prepared to be the main starter.

“Jamie was a huge motivator for me,” he said. “He even came back a couple times this year and helped me during goalie practices. He just gave me some little pointers on things that I need to look out for and improve.”

The Midgets have seven newcomers including junior forward Alex Bast — a transfer from St. Cloud, Minn. Bast played baseball for Dickinson High during the spring and the Roughriders in the summer. With 19 players on the roster, Turcotte said one luxury the team has — which the Midgets haven't had in the past — is the ability to put four lines out on the ice.

“We have that leisure of a fourth line, so our top two lines can get a break,” said Turcotte, who ended with nine goals and three assists. “Since even the beginning of practice, we’ve come a long way.”

With the goal to reach the state tournament, players and coaches alike are taking the regular season one game at a time. The Midgets aren’t cutting any corners and are coming to work every single day.

“They’ve brought their lunch pail to work every day. That’s for sure,” Kuntz said. “Last year they showed glimpses of their talent and I feel the core group of this team is ready to take that next step. They are ready to finish in the top half of the WDA and go on to compete at the state hockey tournament in Grand Forks. We don’t want to back our way in. We want to earn it every step of the way.”

Schweitzer added: “We all have the goal that we want to play at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in the state tournament. We all have the same mindset right now.”

Dickinson Midgets

Head coach: Dallas Kuntz (1st year)

Last season: 8-15, 5-11 West Region

Returners: Brett Schweitzer, Sr., G; Alex Turcotte, Sr., F; Daniel Honcharenko, Sr., F; Tim Knudson, Sr., D; Kass Dvorak, Jr., F; Collin Bren, Jr., D; Gannon Karsky, Jr., F; Tony Kostelecky, Jr., D; Matt Pavek, Jr., F; Andrew Heckaman, Jr., F/D; Tate Martel, So., D; Michael McChesney, So., F.

Newcomers: Alex Bast, Jr., F; Ben Pacheco, Jr., F; Braden Kessel, So., D; Mason Fridrich, Fr., F; Drew Heiser, So., F; August Kordonowy, Jr., F; Eric Schaper, So., G.

Losses: Brendin Steiner, F; Jamison Gray, G; Trevor Coates, D; Hunter Jerome, F; Austin Krank, D; Jayden Mink, F; Mickey Folske, F (moved to Bismarck).