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New Ulm Steel opens season on Saturday

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Steel open their 2019-20 NA3HL hockey season on Saturday night when they travel to Sauk Rapids to take on Granite City.

It will be the first of five straight road games for the Steel to open their season. New Ulm’s first home games are October 17 and 18 when they host Alexandria and Coulee Region in back-to-back games.

First-year head coach Zach Stepan said that he feels that this year’s team can make a playoff push.

“In talking with General Manager Bryant Black and my assistant coach Nick Campbell, they are pretty excited as to the players we have brought in compared to in the past,” he said. “They feel that we are 10 times the teams that we have been in the past at the start of the year without making any moves yet. We have a lot of depth on the front side — we have a lot of skill up front with our forwards. And we have a lot of shutdown defensemen. So we are sitting in a good spot to start the season but at the same time we have not played a game yet. Our biggest thing is to get our structure down and let them play the game.”

Stepan said that the biggest change that has taken place has been both the New Ulm Steel and the parent NAHL Chippewa Falls (Wisc.) Steel both using the same systems.

“Last year when players from New Ulm were called up we had an hour or so to show them a new system and as a player that is [nearly] impossible,” Stepan said. “So this year we are mimicking everything that Chippewa does so when our players get called up everything is the same.”

Going into Saturday’s game, Stepan has some questions about his second and third lines but does have his first line set in Michael Savelkoul, Jacob Halvorson and Keegan Baumann, a line that returns intact from last season.

“We have brought in Stanislov Danev from Russia to be on a line with Joey Gimberlin (Creighton-Derham Hall) and Jacob Zowin (Forest Lake) on the second line.”

The defensemen will be strong.

“I think that Drake Raduns-Parsley (Sauk Rapids-Rice) and Jake Henthorne (Gentry Academy) will huge shutdown defensemen.”

The Steel have four goaltenders, including Jack Raymond from New Ulm High School.

“They will all get their chances but we will not carry four goaltenders all year,” Stepan said.

Stepan thinks that Granite City will be an early-season measuring stick right off of the bat.

“I would rather play a good team like that to see where we are right away,” he said. “We want to be a fast-paced team and the fans will see that. We have a lot of speed and skill this year.”

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