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Fairmont Area boys hockey set for home opener

HITTING THE ICE — Members of the Fairmont Area Cardinals boys hockey team opening their season by playing host to Morris/Benson Area on Saturday at Martin County Arena include, front row (l-r): Joesef Olson, Alec Reutzel, Lincon Clarey, Nathaniel Robinson, Trenton Vlieger and Kyler Gronewald. Middle row: Dominic Hegdal, Kaiden Musser, Tyson Geerdes, head coach Dylan VanBrocklin, assistant coach Roger Claeys, Carsen Musser, Seth Becker, Eli Anderson, Jacob Becker and Brycen Lutterman. Back row: Lucas Flohrs, Hudson Artz, Carson Kuhl, Alexander Moeller, Evan Carlson, Thomas Claeys, Carter Beebe, Elijah Vlieger, Carson Johnson, Carter Olson and Nikolas Flanagan. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Dylan VanBrocklin has brought a new outlook to the head coaching spot for the Fairmont Area Cardinals boys hockey team.

VanBrocklin spent the last three years coaching in the Fairmont Hockey Association and was an assistant coach for the varsity team last season, now he’s taking the reins.

VanBrocklin has coached since he was a student, helping the youth programs in Wyoming where he attended high school after growing up in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

VanBrocklin takes over a team that won only one game last season and four the year before.

He said his goal as coach of the Cardinals is to move the program into the upper ranks of the Big South Conference alongside New Ulm and Luverne.

“I want to be that team that everyone wants to beat,” VanBrocklin said. “I want teams to know when they play us, it’s gonna be a good game, they’re gonna have to work for it. … That’s my goal, I want to turn it (the program) around.

“I’ve only been around here for a few years, and everyone talks about Luverne and how good they have been. You never really hear anything about Fairmont. I want to put Fairmont hockey on the map.”

Because VanBrocklin had only two weeks with his team before its first game against Morris/Benson Area on Saturday, he said much of the focus during practice was on getting back to basics.

“In the past, our skill level hasn’t been as high as other teams,” VanBrocklin said. “I’ve put a lot of focus on the little things. Just our simple passing, stick handling, shooting, skating, all those little things that if you can’t do it well at this level, it really hurts you.”

Because of the changes in the program and VanBrocklin looking for a fresh start, the Cardinals will begin their season without named captains.

VanBrocklin said he has talked to players and the team will decided its own captains after spending more time together.

“We wanted to start fresh,” VanBrocklin said. “We’ve been talking as a team about what a captain really is. Your captain isn’t necessarily your best player, he’s a leader, he’s somebody that everyone can count on, that everyone looks up to. We’ve only had a week and a half, so we’ve been going over that stuff and trying to see who is going to step up and really be a leader on the team before we pick anything.”

Along with the fresh start for team captains, the Cardinals will start the season with a new look in net.

After two seasons splitting time in goal, senior goalie Tyson Geerdes will start the season rehabbing a knee injury, leaving freshman Carsen Musser as the lone goalie available to play for at least the first month.

Musser, along with 12 teammates who will get their first varsity experience this season, will play a key role as members of the 25-player team this season.

VanBrocklin said there are nearly enough players this season to create a junior varsity team, but he would like to have 30 players before starting a JV in case injuries affect team depth.

The Cardinals go into the season looking to improve on the program’s recent history.

They will begin the season at 3 p.m. Saturday at Martin County Area when the Cardinals host the Morris/Benson Area Storm after a varsity girls game at 1 p.m.

VanBrocklin said he and the team are looking forward to getting the season underway.

“We’ve got a good group, our seniors have been very excited,” VanBrocklin said. “They’ve been very vocal about their goals, they want to turn it around. I’m excited to see what happens this season.”

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