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Cardinals hockey looks to overcome injuries

FACE-OFF TIME — Members of the 2021-22 Fairmont Area Cardinals boys hockey team traveling to Le Sueur for its season-opener against Minnesota River on Tuesday, Nov. 30, include, front row (l-r): Ilana Moeller, Nate Rakness, Brock Lutterman, Isaiah Lockwood, assistant coach Matt Lytle, head coach Dylan VanBrocklin, assistant coach Roger Claeys, Dominic Hegdal, Alexander Moeller and Carson Johnson. Middle row: Lincoln Becker, Jace Prindle, Jace Teveldal, Alec Reutzel, Hartley Aust, Beau Becker, Nikolas Flanagan and Luke Kester. Back row: Tyson Pankow, Matthew Steuber, Lucas Flohrs, Hank Artz, Thomas Claeys, Hudson Artz, Eli Anderson, Mathew Cone and Connor Gronewald. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — The recently-completed autumn athletic seasons already have taken a toll on Fairmont Area head coach Dylan VanBrocklin’s boys hockey roster.

Eli Anderson, the Cardinals’ leading point producer, goal scorer and assist distributor during the Covid-condensed 2021 ice campaign, will await the outcome of an MRI exam after suffering a leg injury during the Fairmont football team’s recent postseason run.

“Eli’s versatile, so he can play defense for us or we can use him at a forward position,” VanBrocklin said in reference to Anderson, who generated 17 points on the strength of eight goals and nine assists last winter. “Now all we can do is wait to see what the results of the MRI are and go from there.”

Junior forward Kaiden Musser, who produced five goals and four assists during the 2021 season, broke his leg while playing quarterback for the Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman football team in October and also will start this season on the Cardinals’ injured reserve list.

“We’ve got two broken legs and we haven’t even stepped onto the ice for a game yet,” VanBrocklin said in reference to the health status of goaltender Isaiah Lockwood. “Isaiah was our bantam goalie last year, but he broke his leg playing soccer this fall. So he’s on crutches and doing rehab, but he still might not be able to play this season.”

Unfortunately for VanBrocklin, he entered his second varsity season at Fairmont Area’s hockey helm this past January without a tested goaltender due to the departure of Carsen Musser. Carsen Musser, who amassed an incredible 877 saves for the Cardinals during the 2019-20 prep campaign, exited the Minnesota high school ranks due to having the opportunity to play for a 15U AAA hockey program in Michigan.

Then-junior Rachel O’Connor made the sacrifice of transitioning from the Cardinal girls hockey program to fill the void between the pipes for the boys team last winter.

With O’Connor returning to play her senior season with the Fairmont Area girls program and Lockwood on the shelf for now, VanBrocklin will open the season on Tuesday, Nov. 30, with sophomore Carson Johnson in net, with freshman Ilana Moeller serving as his backup.

“If nothing else, we’re making history as the only boys hockey program in the state to have two different girls play goalie for us in back-to-back seasons,” VanBrocklin said with a chuckle. “Carson will be our starter, and hopefully we can get Ilana some experience in net during some junior varsity scrimmages this winter.”

While VanBrocklin hopes the revolving door between the pipes stops, he does open his third season as head coach with a solid returning skating nucleus.

Senior captain Alexander Moeller will rejoin Eli Anderson as the Cardinals’ probable first-line defenders, while senior captain Hudson Artz will combine forces with junior Brock Lutterman and Tyson Pankow at the forward spots.

Lutterman generated 14 points on the strength of seven goals and seven assists last season, while Hudson Artz supplied 10 points via seven goals and three assists.

Senior Alec Reutzel, who produced five goals and distributed seven assists in 2021, will blend stick-handling and shooting skills with juniors Hartley Aust and Nate Rakness as the Cardinals’ second line up front, while freshman Hank Artz and junior Lincoln Becker will flank the goalie on defense again.

“We really haven’t practiced much yet, so we’ll have to wait and see how our third and fourth lines shape up,” said VanBrocklin. “There’s nothing like jumping into it (the schedule) right away.

“We’re going from no games to three in one week right out of the chute.”

Fairmont Area hits the road to Le Sueur on Tuesday, Nov. 30, to face Minnesota River — a shared program between Le Sueur-Henderson and St. Peter.

The Cardinals then return home to Martin County Arena in Fairmont to play host to Big South rival Waseca on Thursday, Dec. 2, and to Rochester Lourdes on Saturday, Dec. 4.

“One of our biggest goals is to compete in every game,” said VanBrocklin. “Next, we want to win a playoff game or two, and start things rolling in a positive direction for the future.”

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