Girls hockey practice

Sophomores Claire Schweim, Katie Ives and Erin White, and junior Miranda Piehl chase down a puck during a practice last week. Hutchinson’s girls hockey team will have many young players stepping up to fill spots as the team aims to return to state this year.

Second-year girls hockey head coach Marc Telecky will have a difficult time matching the success of his first year. The 2019-20 Tigers made history by winning the program’s first state consolation championship, the team’s best finish ever. It won’t be easy, but Telecky and the 2021 Tigers are up for the challenge as they prepare for a new and unconventional season during the era of COVID-19.

Like every team in the state, the Tigers will be dealing with pandemic challenges such as wearing masks and a shortened schedule of 18 games. The real challenge for Hutch will be replacing last year’s group of talented seniors, including defensemen Ainslea Jensen and Laina Berthiaume, and the team’s entire first line: Alex Hantge, Britta Johnson and Sabrina Tracy.

“We did lose quite a bit,” Telecky said, adding later, “It’s hard to replace the points they had. I think every one of those three forwards all had 60 points. If you’re looking to replace a hundred-and-some points, that’s not easy to do.”

What the team lost in experience and talent, though, Telecky hopes depth will help make up for. And the Tigers do have some core members of last year’s team returning, it will just be a matter of finding players to step up into larger roles.

Back in the net for the Tigers is senior Hannah Ladwig, who played in all 31 games last year. She’ll be helped by returning defender Paige Telecky, along with a group of sophomores and freshmen such as Morgan Briggman, Lauren Nelson, Kohle Fitterer and more.

Back at forward is senior Maddy Seifert, the team’s top returner on offense. She’ll have plenty of company with forwards such as seniors Marlee Harlander and Ellie Campbell, juniors Miranda Piehl and Ellie Petersen, sophomore Hailee Martin, and freshmen Alyssa Winn and Erin White also returning.

“We’ve got a big group of young kids who came up from the youth level, and a lot of freshmen and sophomores with a year under their belt,” Telecky said. “Depth is important, I’ve always coached that way. Last year we ran three lines and I plan on doing the same this year.”

As always, the Wright County Conference will provide stiff competition for the Tigers during the regular season. Telecky felt Holy Family Catholic, the reigning conference champ, was the team to beat, with Mound Westonka, a section rival, not far behind.

“Mound returns everybody,” he said. “They return a lot of minutes, so as far as our competition in the section and the conference, they’re right there.”

When it comes to playoffs, Telecky predicted that any path to the state tournament would most likely lead through Mound, so that’s how the Tigers are preparing. He’s confident the team is strong on the backside with Ladwig in goal, and he feels good about the depth. The key to the team’s success, Telecky said, will be puck possession and forcing teams “to play 180 feet against us.”

“We want to be a north-south team,” Telecky said. “We don’t want to mess around with the puck on our end. Get it on our stick and get out and get our feet moving.”