Boys' hockey: Tigers look to bounce back from last season

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The Farmington Tigers boys' hockey team began its 2017-2018 regular season last week with a win over Rochester Mayo. The Tigers come into the season after having a disappointing 2016-2017 campaign where they went 8-16-1 following a trip to the state tournament the year before.

"Last season was a very tough season," head coach John Marsh said. "Coming off a state tournament appearance the year before and losing a lot of top end talent was difficult. We played a very tough schedule with 15 games against top-10 ranked teams. I think we struggled for chemistry last year. The team had plenty of talent but just couldn't quite get in synch and get back to the tournament."

Despite losing a large number of seniors from last year's team, Marsh said that the team will still have a returning core to build around.

"This year's team will be anchored by our defensive core of four seniors and our top two lines that have five juniors," he explained. "Ethan Gauer (senior defender and co-captain) played in the Elite League and is our best overall player. Joe Wolters (senior defender and co-captain), Mason Enright (junior forward and assistant captain), Josh Ask (junior forward and assistant captain), Zach Willis (junior forward), Quinn Rudrud (junior forward) and Blake Fuhrman (junior forward) will all contribute to our success. Our two goalies, Kenny LaCroix and Tyler Block (both juniors) are the two I expect to take the next step. I am very pleasantly surprised by our incoming sophomore class. They are very talented and I am very excited to watch them grow. We also have two ninth-graders that will both see varsity time this year."

Enright led those returning with six goals last season, while Gauer had four and Wolters had two.

Marsh said the team's goals this season are simple; to win the South Suburban Conference (SSC), win their section and make the state tournament. To do that, they will have to fight their way through the always-tough SSC.

"The South Suburban Conference is still one of the toughest in the state," Marsh said. "Every team is good and every game will be highly competitive."

As they work through the early part of the regular season, Marsh said that his team's strengths will revolve around how quickly they are meshing together as opposed to last season.

"Our strength is our compete level, our size and our speed," he said. "This group has some of the best chemistry I have seen in a team, especially this early in the season."

However, graduating so many players after last year will bring its own challenges.

"Being such a young team, we are going to spend a lot of time working on puck protection, making the correct play for the situation and defensive zone," Marsh explained.

The team is looking forward to games against their rivals from Lakeville North and South, who Marsh said will be great tests for his young team. On a personal level, Marsh, who is an alum of St. Thomas Academy, is looking forward to playing the Cadets as they are one of the best programs in the state.

The Farmington Tigers will also continue their work off of the ice.

"Our varsity players will be doing a mentor program with our youth association," Marsh said. "Each player will be assigned a boys youth team for the season. They will be on the ice for some practice and show support during their games. Creating a strong and supportive community program is very important to me. This will benefit both the high school player and youth players and bring our 'hockey family' closer together. Our boys will also be doing some charity work and volunteer work around the community throughout the season."

On the team this year are: junior Mason Enright, junior Ethan Harvey, senior Tim Willis, junior Zach Willis, sophomore Aaron Gruber, senior Joe Wolters, senior Adam Klotz, senior Hunter Dupey, junior Josh Ask, junior Blake Fuhrman, senior Ethan Gauer, sophomore Reed Kadrlik, sophomore Zach Walton, junior Tyler Block, freshman Logan Lukasezck, junior Quinn Rudrud, junior Kenneth Lacroix, sophomore Ryan Rouleau, sophomore Ryan Gruber and freshman Logan Weierke.

Farmington hosts Rochester John Marshall on Thursday, Nov. 30, and then travels to St. Thomas Academy on Saturday, Dec. 2.