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Section 1A Boys HS Preview

01/04/2021, 11:00am CST
By Let's Play Hockey

Mankato East senior forward Layten Liffrig notched 74 points as a junior and will look to lead the Cougars back to state. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen/Breakdown Sports

Mankato East looks to repeat, but Dodge County may have other plans

Mankato East will look to return as section champions in Section 1A and they may have the talent to do so as they return several key players from their 2020 squad who surprisingly punched a ticket to the X despite being the fourth seed in the section. 

Layten Liffrig will lead the Cougars after notching 74 points (32g, 42a) last season. Liffrig has size and skill, can score and dish and was the No. 12 overall pick in the NAHL draft by the Minnesota Magicians. And he's not alone as the Cougars return three defenseman who all scored at least 28 points last season.

But Brody Lamb and the Dodge County Wildcats may have something to say about that. They are coming off a 21-6-0 mark last season and entered the section tourney as the top seed. But they lost to the No. 4-seeded Cougars 5-3 in the section semifinals on a hat trick by Matthew Salzle. Liffrig had four helpers in the game and the Cougars held Lamb, who led the state with 49 goals, to a goal and an assist. 

Lamb will just be a junior this year and he and his teammates will want to exact revenge on the Cougars.  Both squads bring back plenty of scoring, a strong presence on the blue line and experienced goaltending.

And don't count out Faribault. They are coming off a 17-win season and lose just four players. And Mankato West, who won 16 games and lost to Mankato East in the section finals 3-1 and has perhaps the section's top goaltender in Caleb Cross .

This section is going to be a fun one to watch down the stretch.


Team Previews: A Closer Look

Mankato East


Conference: Big Nine

Head Coach: Adam Fries

2019-20 Record:14-15-1

Conference Record: 7-6-0

State Tournament Appearances: 2006, 2018, 2020

Graduation losses: D Garrison Beckius, F Noah Homich, G Jaden Kragh, F Mason Pin, F Matthew Salzle (All-Big 9), F Jacob Wood

Top returning players: Layten Liffrig (SR/F, 32-42-74) Brett Borchardt (SR/D, 8-26-34), Jake Schreiber (SR/D 8-22-30), Jake Kazenbach (SR/D, 11-17-28), Caelin Brueske (JR/G, 3.70/.875)

Team Outlook: Mankato East will be led this season by one of the state’s best forwards in senior Layten Liffrig. He has helped the Cougars reach the state tournament twice in the past three years while putting together 32 goals and 42 assists last season. With a strong core of returners that include impressive senior defensemen Jake Screiber, Jake Kazenbach and Brett Borchardt, the Cougars are strong in all facets of the game. All three were able to score at least eight goals last season and their net will be anchored by Caelin Brueske who had a save percentage of .875 last season.

Dodge County


Conference: Big Nine

Head Coach: Nick Worden

2019-20 Record: 21-6-0

State Tournament Appearances: None 

Graduation losses: C Logan Gauthier, F Anthony Porlsch, D Brendan Postier

Top returning players: Brendon Wolesky (JR/W, 49-23-72), Gavin Giesler (JR/W, 17-7-24), Charlie Blaisdell (SR/D, 8-25-33) Isaac Rogne (SR/W, 10-19-29) Isaac Dale (JR/G, 2.93/.880)

Team Outlook: Dodge County will look toward junior Brody Lamb to spark their season and give them leadership. Lamb proved to be a scoring machine finishing with the most goals in the state at 49. His main supporting crew this season will include Brendon Wolesky, Gavin Giesler, Charlie Blaisdell, Isaac Rogne and Isaac Dale. The Wildcats will be strong in goal as well, giving them equal opportunity to grab this section from Mankato East. Last year the Wildcats were the top seed heading into the section playoffs but were ousted my Mankato East 5-3. 




Conference: Big Nine

Head Coach: Dean Weasler

2019-20 Record: 17-8-2

Conference Record:9-5-2

State Tournament Appearances: 1993

Graduation losses: G Jake Dolter (All-Big 9); G Spencer Eli; F Noah Murphy (All-Big 9); D Leighton Weasler (All-Big 9, Reed Larson finalist)

Top returning players: Zach Siegert (12/F, 26-15-41), Zack Slinger (11/F, 16-8-24), Jordan Nawrocki (12/F, 13-19-32), Grady Goodwin (11/D, 7-10-17)

Team Outlook: Faribault lost two starting goalkeepers from last season which will be their biggest hole to fill this upcoming year. Their strength will be the offense and will be led by senior Zach Siegert who netted 27 goals last season. They will also look for help from junior Zack Slinger and senior Jordan Nawrocki who both had double-digit goals last season.


Albert Lea


Conference: Big Nine

Head Coach: Jason Fornwald

2019-20 Record:10-15-2

Conference Record: 7-7-2

State Tournament Appearances: 2004, 2005, 2007

Graduation losses: D Danny Chalmers, (All-Big 9, Reed Larson finalist) F Campbell Cichosz (All Big-9), G Brad Horecka, F John Jensen, F Culley Larson (All-Big 9), F Jacob Prihoda, D Carson Stadheim, F Marty Syverson, F Owen Zelenak

Top returning players: Blake Ulve (SR/F, 17-23-40) Braden Fjelsta (11/G, 4.23/.848)

Team Outlook: Albert Lea boasts one of the top forwards in the section with Blake Ulve who put up 40 points last season. They will also need a strong season from junior goalkeeper  Braden Fjelsta.


Minnesota River


Conference: Big Nine

Head Coach: Shea Roehrkasse (Sixth year)

2019-20 Record: 14-11-0

Conference Record:12-4-0

State Tournament Appearances:2019

Graduation losses:

Top returning players:

Team Outlook: Minnesota River made their first state tournament appearance two years ago and are striving to make a run back their behind senior forward Brady Sowder who accumulated 30 points last season. They had an impressive 14 wins last season and while that may be unreachable in a shortened 18-game season, they will look to get back to that team on the cusp of winning a section title.


La Crescent


Conference: Independent

Head Coach: Adam Kimball

2019-20 Record: 4-16-1

State Tournament Appearances: None 

Graduation losses: G Ryan Booth, D Dane Fritz, F Drew Wieser

Top returning players: Ashur Rouleau (12/F, 8-11-19) (Wyatt Farrell 10/F, 21-10-31)

Team Outlook: La Crescent is a junior laden team but perhaps their brightest star is underclassman Wyatt Farrell who had 21 goals and 30 points last season as a freshman. They might be a year away from competing for the top half of the section, but with a young and talented squad, another year of progress and experience should bode well.


Mankato West


Conference: Big 9

Head Coach: Curtis Doell

2019-20 Record: 16-11-1

Conference Record: 9-5-1

State Tournament Appearances: 2008, 2016

Graduation losses: D Nate Looft (All-Big 9), F Jackson Maday, F Caden Oltman, F Stephen Schwartz, F Blake Waletich, D Matt Warnke, F Brayden Wiese, F Jack Wittenberg (All-Big 9), F Thomas Zellmer, D Andrew Zellmer

Top returning players: Brandon Swenson (12/F, 17-16-33), Gavin Brunmeier (11/F, 16-10-26), Ethan Fox (12/F, 13-11-24), Caleb Cross (12/G, 16-11-1/2.25/.905)

Team Outlook: Mankato West’s biggest strength is experience as they return eight seniors. The team will look for heavy offensive production from Brandon Swenson who had 17 goals last season and Gavin Brunmeier who netted 16. They finished runner up in the section last season and could be surprise sleeper this year. They have an outstanding goalie in Caleb Cross, who posted a 2.25 GAA and .905 save percentage last season.


Rochester Lourdes


Conference: Independent

Head Coach: Jeff True

2019-20 Record: 0-26-0

State Tournament Appearances: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Graduation losses: D Harrison Albrecht, F Ethan Smith

Top returning players: Jack Kleinschmidt (12/F, 10-2-12) Charlie Kietty (11/D, 3-10-13)

Team Outlook: It is a rebuilding process for the Eagles and they will depend on last seasons top goal scorer, senior Jack Kleinschmidt, to lead the charge as they look to earn back recognition for the program.




Conference: Big South

Head Coach: Chris Storey

2019-20 Record:18-9-0

Conference Record: 9-7-0 

State Tournament Appearances: None

Graduation losses: F Jagger Johnson (All-Big South), F Tylor Nordquist, F Ben Priebe (All-Big South), F Marcus Priebe, D Jack Rolling (All-Big South), D Nolan Wetzel

Top returning players: Charlie Huttemier (12/F, 14-17-31), Kyle Ahlschlager (10/F, 13-15-28) Ben Diedrich (12/G, 3.05/.895)

Team Outlook: The Bluejays will need consistent production from senior Charlie Huttemier who had 14 goals last season. They will also look to senior Ben Diedrich to be a lockdown goalie, Diedrich finished last season with a .895 save percentage.



Conference: Big 9

Head Coach: Fran McDevitt

2019-20 Record:13-13-1

Conference Record: 4-10-1

State Tournament Appearances: 1952

Graduation losses: W Ryan Brown, C Nathan Campbell, W Roman Grulkowski (All-Big 9), W Austin King-Henke, W Kai Kovala, D Eric Paulson (All-Big 9), W Dylan Waldera, G Campbell Watkins

Top returning players: Alex Benson (12/G, 5-6-1/3.40/.913), Matt Thesing (12/F, 15-14-29), Hans Larsen (12/F, 10-4-14), Alex Charles (12/F, 5-9-14), Ayden Ruesgen (11/F), 7-6-13), Quinn Larsen (11/D, 2-10-12), Jack Thompson (12/D, 2-7-9).

Team Outlook: “Once again, one of our strengths will be our experience.  Most of our seniors saw quality ice time as freshman and have continued to improve.  On the ice, I feel our strength will be in the back end.  Benson has started in net since 8th grade and defensive corp will all be upperclassmen.  We are hoping our depth up front will keep us balanced on the ice.” – Coach McDevitt  













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Tag(s): State Of Hockey