NEW ULM - The New Ulm Eagles boys hockey team opens defense of its Section 3A crown when it hosts Redwood Valley tonight at 7 p.m. at the New Ulm Civic Center.
The Eagles were seeded second behind Luverne.
A win tonight would send the Eagles to Gustavus Adolphus for an 8 p.m. game against the winner of the Litchfield vs. Hutchinson game.
"We figured that we would be the one or two seed," New Ulm coach Erik Setterholm said. "The seedings do not make a whole lot of difference to us."
When the season started, Setterholm did not know where his team was going to be record-wise because of the inexperience at some spots.
"I thought that we would be a couple of games above .500 and we are on a pace to do that," he said. "But I did not think that we would be in the mix for a number one seed, but we played the type of games against the section opponents that they needed to (going unbeaten against them) to have a chance at the number one seed. We played some good games against those teams."
While the unbeaten record against section opponents has been a surprise, Setterholm said that he has seen other aspects of New Ulm's game improve.
"Brandon Helget (18 goals, 14 assists) and the entire second line of Colin Huffman (5-10) and Ethan Kraus (12-8) has really stepped up," he said. "They have become a pretty good number two line. They have not been outscored much by the first line this year. It is nice to have that depth."
He said that for the most part, his team has played pretty consistent this season.
"There were a lot of games that we lost that we could have won," Setterholm said. "I think that that has a lot to do with our youth. I looked at our roster and we brought back only four players that played (on the varsity) last year come state tournament time. We did not have a lot of players back from last year's team, so I am proud of them for getting the two seed and now we will see what happens in the playoffs."
Setterholm believes that the Eagles are deeper than any other team in the section.
"Having that depth also means a lot of youth on the second and third lines," he said. "I did not know that we were going to have that, so I was surprised by that."
He added that most teams have one good line. "But in my eyes, one good line is easy to stop,:" said Setterholm. "But when you have that second or third line that can score that is when you can cause other team's fits.."
Putting the puck in the net is the key, but on the same side, stopping the opponent from scoring rests with the goaltender.
Brach Kraus has recorded 614 saves this season off of 689 shots for a goals-against average of 3.27.
"He won the starting job last year, so he has been there and done that," Setterholm said. "That is big when your goaltender has that experience so he knows what to expect in the playoffs."
Hoffmann in St. Lucie
Jamie Hoffmann said Tuesday that his spring training with the New York Mets is going well after the first two full days of workouts.
"I have been here at St. Lucie, Florida, since Feb. 6 and things are going pretty well," he said. "We are not too far from Vero Beach where the Dodgers have spring training."
Hoffmann said that this training camp, after being in camps with the Dodgers, Yankees and the Orioles in past years, has some differences.
"You learn stuff here and there each year with different organizations on how to be the new guy," he said. "I am just trying to win a job with the Mets. I feel very comfortable."
Hoffmann, who is currently not on the Mets' 40-man roster. said that each camp is an adjustment.
"There are a bunch of things changing all of the time," he said. "You get use to it."
Hoffmann said that one aspect of this year's camp is that he did not play winter ball in the off-season. That has helped him get healed physically and also allowed him time away from baseball.
"I came to camp healthy this year," he said. "Last year I came into camp and could not walk. It is good to have your health and it makes you thankful for being healthy and being able to compete right away."
He said that last year at this time, "I was not even able to be on the field. I was walking in the pool in the training room."
Hoffmann said that not playing winter ball was a much-needed break that he appreciated.
"That was the first winter since I started playing pro ball that I took the winter completely off," he said. "I got to spend time with friends and family, get away from the game for a while. It helped out a lot.... This is an opportunity for me, and all that I can do is work hard and see what happens."