The Tigers finished last season ranked 15th out of 52 teams in Class A following a 13-10-4 season. They reached the section final after defeating Minnesota River and Delano in the first two rounds before losing to Mound Westonka 2-1 in the final.
“That was a heartbreaker,” first-year head coach Marc Telecky said. “A lot of these kids feel the same way. They’re going to be hungry to get back to that game.”
Hutchinson is looking to make it back to the state tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season, and they’re returning with most of their roster from last season still intact except for two seniors. The team is going to build off the comradery.
“With the hard work everyone has put in this summer,” senior forward Alex Hantge said, “it can lead to a successful season.”
Last year, Hantge finished tied with five other players for 61st in total points with 39 (20 goals, 19 assists). You might think she would want to score more this season, but Hantge has a speed goal in mind.
“The individual goal for me is get my first three steps going to get faster,” she said.
This is Telecky’s first season coaching the girls, but he has long been involved in Hutchinson hockey. One of his goals is for everyone on the team to come in and work hard. With the new schemes he’s implementing, Telecky said that the girls have picked it up well in the first few practices. He wants to be a more fast-paced offensive team and believes that will pay more dividends early in games.
“The teams that are prepared properly will start to see themselves separate in the second and third period,” Telecky said. “We’re blessed, we’ve got some really strong returning forwards this year that really like to get after it.”
Telecky also attributed a lot of the team’s late-season success last year to goalie Hannah Ladwig. In three section games, Ladwig allowed a total of just four goals, two of those against Mound Westonka in the final. At the end of the season, Ladwig finished 61st in save percentage and 54th in goals allowed per game. But she’s also keeping everything in perspective and focusing on giving her all every game.
“I’m just trying to make sure my confidence is good going into the season,” she said, “and just make sure I focus on little things to do the best I can no matter what.”
The Tigers are laden with upperclassmen, which is where most of the contributions will come from.
“The comradery is there,” Telecky said. “We’re just trying to bring a little more structure for them.”
With that structure, Telecky will be interchanging between the centers and defensemen to use centers to do a lot of things in the defensive zone that a defenseman does. On offense, Telecky also wants to have more puck possession opportunities and to try to maintain the puck, as he believes whoever controls the puck for the most amount of time has the greater chance of winning.
Winning will be a grind for most nights in the Wright County Conference, as most teams outside of Waconia, which didn’t win a conference game last year, could beat anyone on any given night, according to Telecky.
“No nights off,” he said.
The puck drops on Hutchinson’s season at 7:15 p.m. Thursday when it takes on St. Cloud Cathedral at MAC Arena in St. Cloud. Their first home game is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, when they host Marshall.
The Tigers are hungry, they aren’t content with past success and they want more. They realize that they need to put the work in if they want to take that next step and do something they haven’t done since 2015.
“I think we have a really good chance this year,” Ladwig said. “We just got to keep working and try to take it one game at a time.”