Even after finishing with an 8-17 record in the regular season last year, the Hutchinson boys hockey team fought its way to the section finals and fell short against New Ulm. It just goes to show that records can be misleading.
“We want to make sure we’re playing the best competition throughout the whole year,” head coach Matt Telecky said. “You always want to be around .500, but we also want to make sure we’re playing the best teams we can so we’re playing our best hockey in February.”
A return to the section final and beyond are two of Hutchinson’s goals for the 2019-20 season, but they’ll have some big skates to fill after several key graduations last year.
One of those seniors from the previous season was Lane Glaser, the team’s top point-getter with 21 goals and 19 assists in the regular season. While the Tigers may not be able replace his production with a single player, they’ll look for a more balanced attack on offense and spread the points out.
While the Tigers will miss the players they lost, Telecky believes that this year’s team is one of the deeper squads in recent years, with 10 forwards and five defensemen returning with varsity playing time.
“They’ve seen a lot of time in the section finals,” Telecky said. “The biggest thing is the knowledge the guys gained.”
One of the Tigers’ top returners is Hayden Jensen, who led the team with 24 assists and six goals. Hutch’s top scorer coming back is senior Austin Jozwick, who netted 11 goals and added 14 assists. Ten other Tigers scored goals last year and 13 notched points, but they’ll need to step up with even more help this year.
In the crease, Hutchinson played three goalies throughout the regular season: Jacob Huls, Griffin Telecky and Austin Hagen. Huls received the majority of the minutes, however, finishing the regular season with a 7-11 record and 0.886 save percentage. Telecky was 1-4 with a 0.880 save percentage, and Hagen was 0-2 with a 0.802 save percentage. In playoffs, Huls started and finished all three games, going 2-1 with a 0.885 save percentage. The three goaltenders will likely resume their spots on the team this year.
The Tigers feel they can do something special this year given how much experience they have playing together. They just need to trust each other and work as a team.
“I think as long as everyone buys in,” Jozwick said. “ (If everyone) goes along with the team and not be selfish, that’s the biggest thing.”
The boys hockey team had an unusual but not unheard of situation this year. The Tigers have 15 players who were also part of the football team that ended its season last week in the state semifinals. They did not join the hockey team for practice until this week, so it may take some time for everyone to get on the same page and get their hockey legs in shape.
“I think it will take a couple weeks for them to get back on track because of football,” said senior Blake Schmidt. “After that, I think we’ll be good.”
They’ll need those hockey legs again this year as there are no easy nights in the Wright County Conference. Teams such as Delano/Rockford, Orono and Holy Family Catholic, which led the conference last year, look to reclaim their positions at the top of the standings.
Then of course there is the boisterous rivalry with the Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato Dragons that always promises to be interesting.
“Every single time we play Litch, it is circled,” Jozwick said.
The Tigers won’t have much time to prepare as they jump right into the fire with their season opener at 6 p.m. Saturday against Holy Family Catholic, at Victoria Ice Arena. They’ll play two more games on the road until their home opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, against Princeton.
When it comes time for playoffs, not much has changed in Section 3A. The same 10 teams from last year are back, and New Ulm will aim to defend its title. That has been easier said than done, however, as the last repeat champion in the section was New Ulm when it won in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Otherwise a new champion has been crowned each of the past seven years. One team that hasn’t been crowned since 2009 is the Tigers.
It’s a long road until playoffs, and Telecky’s goal is for everyone to get better everyday, play the game the right way and prepare to take the next step. If all goes well, they’ll be playing to end a 10-year state absence.
“We got to make sure we’re ready to play every night,” Telecky said. “There’s no nights off.”