Boys’ hockey finds themselves rebuilding after loss of seniors

The+boys%27+hockey+team+is+off+to+a+rough+start+this+season+after+losing+the+majority+of+their+starting+lineup+to+graduation.

Ashley Ortizcazarin

The boys' hockey team is off to a rough start this season after losing the majority of their starting lineup to graduation.

The last ten years has seen BSM boys’ hockey emerge from Class A to one of the premier programs in Class AA boys’ hockey.  BSM’s success can stand toe to toe with any other team in the State; their accolades include multiple State Tournament appearances, an undefeated regular season, and a State title. This year’s BSM boys’ hockey season, however, has been beset with a fair amount of strife, but with a number of players seeing varsity ice time for the first time this year, such hiccups are bound to happen. Not all news is bad, however, as young players are getting crucial experience and the team has played tough against some of the best teams in the State and has been able to translate skills learned in practice to the games.

One stark difference between this year and years in the past is the sheer number of players that are playing on the varsity team. “I think [this season] is different because [of] the number of guys playing their first full varsity season is an unprecedented number–in my 30 years of coaching this is the most number of players [we have had to] replace. [We had] 13 seniors and 4 departures in the current junior class. So [we] have 17 guys playing their first varsity minutes,” head coach Ken Pauly said.  

Not only is this young cast of Red Knights adjusting to the speed and difficulty that playing varsity hockey requires, but they are also being baptized by fire as their schedule entails playing some of the top teams in states, namely Grand Rapids, Stillwater, Eden Prairie, and Elk River. ”[It can be hard to win] when you add into that [lack of experience] the difficulty of the schedule that we play–we don’t play a soft schedule, we play a very difficult schedule; we play the best teams in the state in the APAR rankings; we are always high–top 10 or 5 in the state–[so] there are just no freebies there,” Pauly said.

In any sport, an important component of a winning team is the chemistry that is shared among the players. When teams have good chemistry they are able to trust each other to make the plays the team needs to win and to have a certain rhythm while playing. With nearly the whole team being replaced, one challenge for the Red Knights has been being able to forge a chemistry and identity.  “It’s a challenge trying to create team chemistry and team identity–all those things are a challenge in any given year.  I think given the number of players and not only lost players, but we lost guys who were going to be captains, so we have guys in leadership roles that maybe didn’t think they were going to take on.  We are trying to take on 4 or 5 new things at a time when in years past we were taking on one or two,” Pauly said.

Although their record and stats may paint a bleak picture, head coach Ken Pauly has seen promise from his young Red Knights. “I definitely think they get what we are trying to do–I see them making the plays that we want them to make.  I see them as very coachable [in] that way, and now we need to finish some of that stuff off, so that’s always a positive when we see what we have worked on in practice paying off in a game,” Pauly said.

Two aspects of the game that the Red Knights have struggled in particular this year have been on special teams and penalties.   “Special teams have been the differences [in the games], contrary to what people are thinking by the record, we are not playing [when] they are in our end the whole game. But special teams and penalties have been the difference in games where we have taken a 5 minute major [and] the score has reflected that in 7-1 or 7-2 scores. So taking uncalled-for penalties and losing in special teams has killed us,” Pauly said.

In an early season game against one of the top teams in the state, Eden Prairie, BSM proved that, when healthy, they have the ability to compete with anyone in the State, but to add insult to injury as it pertains to inexperience, the Eden Prairie game marked the last game that the team was fully healthy, as they have lost senior captains Nick Sims and Peter Moran for a combined 10 games. “[We played against Eden Prairie] very, very well–we were able to produce a power play goal, we played well on special teams, and that was basically a one-goal game until the end. This was the last game where we had everybody healthy, so honestly, we haven’t been playing with 17 new guys but 19,” Pauly said.