Steel opens play on Saturday night

NEW ULM – The New Ulm Steel begin their 2016-17 Junior A hockey season Saturday night when they travel to Sauk Raids to take on the Granite City Lumberjacks.

Last year the Steel, who finished 36-14-4 on the year, ended the Lumberjacks’ season in the playoffs.

“We battled them last year for the division title and lost,” Steel head coach Jay Witta said. “But we got our redemption in the playoffs and knocked them out as we went to the national championship tournament. So they will be hungry.”

Witta said that this is a good game to start.

“It will be fast-paced,” he said. “Playing Granite is a skill game, a speed game and there is not a lot of clutch and grab and not a lot of penalties. There is a lot of north-south creative playmaking.”

Witta said that this year’s edition of the Steel have eight new players but have both goaltenders Jon Albers and Nate Siclovan along with newcomer Brady Boudreau. Also back is defenseman Trevor Woytcke along with captain Jared Erickson.

Witta said that the first game for new players “is an adjustment period for those kids coming out of high school. It usually takes between five to 10 games to make the adjustment and start thinking faster and making quicker decisions.”

Right now, Witta does not have any lines set up.

“We have five lines and only four can play,” he said. “Making the adjustment for what players are going to sit during games is going to be tough for us each game. All five of our lines are good. It breeds competition.”

He said who the Steel play will a lot of time dictate who pays.

“Certain players play a certain way,” he said. “Against some of our division opponents we will need more grit.”

Witta said he would chose between Albers and Siclovan for the starting goalie the night before the game when lineups have to be set.

And local Steel fans can get ready for their home opener at 7 p.m. next Friday night (Sept. 23) at the New Ulm Civic Center when the Steel open against Alexandria.