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Fairmont Area boys hockey gears up for opener

Eli Anderson

FAIRMONT — Fairmont Area Cardinals boys hockey is looking forward to this season, despite the loss of starting goalkeeper Carsen Musser.

The team usually has time to prepare and players’ have time for captains’ practice and then have a couple weeks of practice. Head coach Dylan VanBrocklin views this as a positive because “there’s no time to think about it, we just have to do it.” The Cardinals are just now working on systems which the older players know, but could be a struggle for the younger players.

The Cardinals will replace goalkeeper Carsen Musser with Rachel O’Connor due to Musser’s move to AAA hockey. Musser will play for the Victory Honda’s Midget Minor U15 squad. Musser saved 877 shots for an average of 36.5 saves a game, won five of the Cardinals’ six wins and averaged 5.77 goals-against last season.

“It’s good for more exposure then just being in a small town in Minnesota,” VanBrocklin said. “So it’s good for him, but for us we relied a lot on him last year. So we’ll have to be a lot better defensively, block a lot more shots and then we were lucky enough to have Rachel come play for us.”

Last season O’Connor made 157 saves, averaged 3.41 goals-against and recorded two wins for the Fairmont Area girls hockey team.

“She’s excited and very willing to come play, so I think that’s a positive,” VanBrocklin said. “It’s not somebody that’s being forced to play and we’re not taking someone up from the bantams.”

VanBrocklin thinks it’ll be tough for O’Connor at first until she can get in a rhythm and faces shots and that his team will not rely on a good goalie making his players play their position and not be lazy.

The Cardinals are returning two of their three leading scorers in Eli Anderson and Hudson Artz. Anderson netted one game-winner and led the team in scoring with 14 goals, made 17 assists and recorded 31 points. Artz led the team in game-winners with two and was third on the team in goals (8), points (15) and assists (7).

As captains a year ago, Anderson and Artz are getting into their roles as the team is becoming their team. VanBrocklin said that they are stepping into the role as leaders and getting everyone to come together as a team and build everyone up.

Statistically, VanBrocklin believes that Anderson and Artz will be tough to play against.

“They really want it,” VanBrocklin said. “They’re tired of losing so they’re bringing that energy and they want to win.”

Other players looking to make impacts are Hank Artz, whose physicality is described as a bonus as the eighth-grader is an all-around good player. Brock Lutterman was mentioned as the possible missing link that could space better players around on lines. Seth Becker and Alec Reutzel have been practicing the last couple days at defense instead of forward. Moving them to the back of the ice, VanBrocklin believes, will give his team a veteran strength in the defensive zone.

Strengths of this team is their vision on the rink, according to VanBrocklin. He said his team is making better passes and seeing the play develop quicker. A weakness of this team is that they are not really physical, but reaching to make contact.

The Cardinals’ record was 6-20 overall last season, but included a 4-1 playoff play-in win against Willmar.

“We relied on our goalie a lot last year and there were games we got outshot a crazy amount and we were still close,” VanBrocklin said. “It’s less on the wins and losses and being more competitive every single game. I don’t want to win a game and then the next game get outshot 60-5 and lose 3-1. I want the actual game to be competitive.”

The Cardinals’ goals are to have better games, not settle for blowouts, net a better record, not get outshot and win a section game.

“We’re really excited just to have a season with everything that’s going on,” VanBrocklin said. “It really stinks that we can’t have fans, so that’s a bummer. We’re tired of losing and I think all of the kids are ready to turn the page and start moving forward.”

The Fairmont Area boys hockey team opens its season on the road against Worthington at 7 p.m. Tuesday night.

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