Published November 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm
by Jared Hines
Contributing Sports Writer
If you look at the 2016-17 Rogers boys hockey team this season, you will notice an abundance of differences from just a year ago.
The 2015-16 team finished the season 17-8, averaging 4.04 goals per game and finishing second place in the conference behind St. Michael-Albertville. Dustin Schoepke led the team with 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists), while Vinny Billing trailed right behind with 41 points (27 goals, 14 assists). The team went onto defeat Brainerd 4-2 in the first round of the postseason before falling by that same score to Moorhead four days later.
Now, Schoepke and Billing are gone, along with four other seniors who contributed to the Royals success a year ago. While their presence will be missed, an opportunity arises for those still on the team.
“I’m very excited to see what this team can do,” said first year head coach Todd Weisjahn. “We lost much of our scoring to graduation, but return a very solid defensive core, a goalie with 25 varsity games of experience.”
Weisjahn is the new addition on the Royals bench, with previous coaching experience elsewhere, making his Royals debut in the upcoming season. Alongside Weisjahn will be assistant coaches Al Bistodeau, Dirk Udee, and Brandon Mitchell.
Seniors Matt Becker, Sam Libke, and Jac Mateja lead the strong defensive core that Weisjahn referred to. Other non-senior defensemen for Rogers includes junior David Bauer and sophomore Nate Thelen, who contributed 14 points for the Royals last year as a freshman.
On offense, Jake Moss (28 points in 2015-16) and Jordan Fischer (36 points) are the leading returning scores for the Royals, while Josh Bridell, Owen Brewer, Elijah Muntz, and Mike VanStelten all look to be in the mix to replace the scoring voids left by Billing and Schoepke.
“You would like to build from the goaltender out and that is what we can do this year,” Weisjahn said. “I expect a big jump from our senior forwards in terms of point production.”
In net, Johnny Preusse logged over one thousand minutes last year, posting a 14-8 record and a save percentage of .891. Preusse stopped 534 of the 599 shots fired at him in 2015-16 and looks to improve on his 3.01 goals against average from a year ago.
The only captain for the 2016-17 season that has been decided thus far is Jake Moss. The team will complete tryouts as well as scrimmages in Buffalo, a yearly tradition that brings local teams together and puts them on the ice for the first time in the new season. After tryouts and scrimmages are complete, the team will vote on more captains, based on leadership that was displayed in the summer and the fall.
The Royals’ first two games are at home, beginning with a Nov. 23 match up against Osseo. The team also plays Coon Rapids at home on Nov. 29.
“Our team will set high expectations for themselves and we will do our best to make that happen,” Weisjahn said. “We have a very difficult schedule that will help us prepare for playoffs in February.”
Filed Under: David Bauer, Elijah Muntz, elk river school district, Jac Mateja, Jake Moss, Johnny Preusse, Jordan Fischer, Josh Bridell, Matt Becker, Mike VanStelten, Nate Thelen, Owen Brewer, rogers, Rogers hockey, Sam Libke