Chargers hoping experience pays off next year

This past season, the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers boys’ basketball team ended with a 17-10 overall mark.

And all indications are that next year’s MVL team can be even better next season as they lose just one starter in Matt Stein.

“I would hope that our kids get better during the offseason,” Chargers head coach Craig Morgan said. “We have played some tough games and we have to win some of those tough games against the New Ulm Cathedral’s, Springfield, Cedar Mountain/Comfrey and Maple River.

“We were pretty young this past year as young goes but I think that those players now have experience and are playing in the offseason and are working to get better,” he said. “We need the guys to get into the gym and get better — go to the basket and shoot whether it is inside or outside — during the offseason.”

Morgan thinks that the biggest improvement that his team needs is on defense.

While the Chargers gave up just over 64 points a game this year, Morgan was concerned with the penetration from opposing offenses.

“We need to be more disciplined to make sure that that ball does not get into the lane,” Morgan said. “That was our Achilles heel all year. I hope that that sinks in that we cannot give up dribble penetration.

“And anytime you do not defend consistently you have problems,” Morgan said. “Your offense is going to miss shots but your defense has to be there along with your effort and attitude every night. If you can’t score, someone else will pick that up for me — you have to play good defense and have to be willing to go after that loose ball.”

But again, the Tomahawk Conference next year — as strong as it was this year — may well be tougher next season.

Look at Springfield, Cathedral, Cedar Mountain/Comfrey and the Chargers and just about every night may be a playoff atmosphere game.

“It was an underclassmen conference and an underclassmen section,” Morgan said. “It is going to be another dog fight next year.”

And there are times when the good athlete — be an underclassman or not — wants to specialize in one sport. That is something that Morgan hopes they avoid.

“I don’t like that and coaches at the next level don’t like it neither,” Morgan said. “They want to see that three-sport athlete but unfortunately we are starting to get into that age of specialization and they want to just lift weights. They lift weights in other sports too.”

STEEL LOSE WEST TITLE: The New Ulm Steel lost their chance to win the West Division at home Saturday when they fell to Northern Iowa 5-1 in the last regular season home game.

‘We started out pretty good and I like the way we were skating and playing in the first period,” Steel coach Andrew Kolb said. “We got a huge first goal but then we turn over the puck with a minute left in the first period and they tied it up.”

But then the Bulls scored a goal in the second period and added three more in the third.

“They banked one off of the back of [goalie] Ryan Kenny in the second period,” Kolb said “We had a power play to start the third period and did not capitalize [New Ulm was 0-for-4 on power plays in the game] and they scored on two power play goals in the third and then an empty net score. We talked about puck management and staying out of the penalty box against a team like that.”

The loss means that the Steel now face Alexandria in the best-of-three series beginning Friday in Sleepy Eye at 7:10 p.m. Game 2 is in Alexandria Saturday with the third game, if needed, in Sleepy Eye Sunday night.

“The team was down after the loss,” Kolb said. “They are 4-3-1 against us this season and they are a good team- they gave us some fits this year.”

The last time the two teams met here in New Ulm, the Steel had a 4-1 lead in the third period but ended up losing 5-4. Kolb said that winning Friday is key for this series.

“We got the first game here and we have home ice which we need to use to our advantage,” he said. “Alex is a tough place to play so Friday’s game is huge for us. We have to start out with a win — you do not want to be down 0-1 going to Alexandria.”

STEEL TICKETS AVAILABLE: For those who want to go to the Steel game on Saturday, tickets are available for $10 for adults, $8 for students and $5 for seniors. If purchased game-day, they’re $12 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for seniors. Season tickets will no longer be valid. To purchase early, call Bryant Black at 320-760-3030.