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Boys hockey: Luverne hopes to stay hot; Windom Area regroups

LUVERNE -- Reputation matters. For the Luverne boys hockey team, each season it's reputation that makes rival teams sit up and take notice. It makes the Cardinal players, themselves, perk up in the knowledge that they're part of something special...

LUVERNE -- Reputation matters.

For the Luverne boys hockey team, each season it’s reputation that makes rival teams sit up and take notice. It makes the Cardinal players, themselves, perk up in the knowledge that they’re part of something special.

“It’s huge for the youth in each program to see that success,” admits LHS head coach Phil Paquette.

At the conclusion of the 2017-18 boys varsity hockey campaign, the Cardinals came within an eyelash of qualifying for the state tournament. They’d beaten Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato 4-2 during the regular season. But they lost to the same team 4-1 in the section finals.

Now, the Cards are back and aiming for another memorable season.

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“We’re setting our goals high,” Paquette said. “With the skill players that we have, we’re looking to have a successful season. We think we’ll be in the discussion when the section tournament rolls around.”

Luverne graduated 11 players from last year’s 20-7 team. Back to lead the squad are senior forwards Ben Serie, Mark Sterrett and Gaige Nath.

Serie became a playmaker as a sophomore and, according to Paquette, is probably the team’s most skilled performer. He’s got speed, and a nose for the net.

Sterrett is a grinder, a hard worker with a quick shot. Nath, a lefty, has excellent hand/eye coordination and works well around the net.

Also returning is junior forward Colby Crabtree, a tall and fast skater who enjoyed a big year as a sophomore.

“Defensively, we lost three of our top four. We’re really filling in on defense. And our defense is pretty young,” Paquette said.

Paquette said the Cardinals should be prepared to have to work harder at maintaining their 2017-18 level of performance, and some younger players will need to step up.

But the team’s top line, he adds, is “very fast and skilled.” The second line represents a different style -- more grind it out, picking up rebounds and digging in the corners.

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Teams are likely to aspire to be their best when they play the Cardinals, but Coach Paquette takes it in stride.

“I don’t get the feeling that we have the target, the red bullseye on our back this year,” he said. “But teams are going to come in and do their best to win.”

Eagles hope to improve To Luverne’s east and north, the Windom Area Eagles plan to make some strides after a 7-18 campaign.

“I think we’re going to be better than last year,” said head coach Jason Espenson.

The coach’s optimism stems, in part, from the fact that his team returns most of its offensive pieces.

Junior Kyle Espenson is the team’s best scorer. His excellent hands, excellent work ethic and ability to shoot quickly and accurately should be a great benefit to his team. Senior Eli Becker had a bunch of assists last year, and the coach feels he’s ready to come into his own now as a scorer. Tanner Pigman is a fine defenseman. Tylan Porath has good leadership qualities.

Much of Windom Area’s scoring came from younger players last year. Now that those players are older, that can’t hurt.

Related Topics: BOYS HOCKEY
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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