Steel hopes to rebound from tough 2018-19 year

NEW ULM — When this season started for the New Ulm Steel, they knew that experience-wise the 2018-19 season was going to be one of learning.

“When I was talking to some of our younger players Monday at their exit interviews they said that it took them 10-15 games to get into the speed of the game coming from high school or AAA,” Steel coach Andrew Kolb said. “This was new hockey to them. Our start was kind of what hurt us and being young had an affect on us.

“Two years ago we had a lot of third-year players on our team and this year I do not even know if we had one,” Kolb said. “Most of our team were either first or second-year players, but as is the case every year, we are going to lose players each year. This year we lose some players too.”

Players who have “aged out” for the Steel are Oliver Hoeschen, Michael Smits, Baylor Hudson, Jordan Cooper, Henry Baribeau, Hunter Johnson, Jake Ford and Jarrett Cammarata.

Kolb said losing Cooper, Ford and Camarata means losing a large part of their offense that he felt fell short of expectations.

“We did not have game-changers in my opinion,” he said. “Two years ago we had skilled forwards who could put the puck in the net and rely on them each game. We need to get some scoring this off-season from new players who we can depend on.”

Some of those players may come from the NA3HL Draft in April and some from players that the Steel have offered tenders or contracts to play for New Ulm next season.

One local player who has recently signed a tender with the Steel is New Ulm High School junior forward Glavine Schugel, who lead the Eagles with 26 goals and 19 assists this season.

“We know that he has another year of high school hockey left so the idea with him is to play with us before his high school season starts,” Kolb said. “We do not know how many games or practices he will have with us. Then he goes back to high school when that season starts. He may then come back to us after the high school season is done.

“And we have to rebuild our entire back end — our defensive corp is pretty much leaving. We only return defenseman Josh Hodgkinson.”

It will be an interesting off-season for the Steel that has already started.