New Ulm boys return several top players from last season

File photo by Steve Muscatello Braxton Hoffmann will be one of the keys to the Eagles offense this season.

NEW ULM — After finishing 19-7-1 last season, New Ulm High School head boys’ hockey coach Ryan Neumann thinks that this year’s team can improve on that mark and make a solid run at the Big South Conference crown and the Section 3A title.

“We have 13 players back from last year,” Neumann said as he starts his sixth season as head coach. “All of them played some time on the varsity, and we also bring back defenseman Kadon Strong, who sat out last year after having an ACL injury in football. Five of our players back from last year are defensemen with Kadon, Jacob Berg, Josh Gulden, Luke Steffensmeier and Sam Keckeisen. And we are looking at Jack Albrecht coming up from the Bantam A’s, where he had a very good season.”

While the Eagles are solid on the defensive corp, they are set in goal with both goaltenders — Kyle Esser and Joey Gag — back from last year.

“It will be a competition for both of them and they were just about even last year in what they did,” Neumann said.

Esser was 10-4-1 and had a goals-against average of 2.11, while Gag posted an 8-2 record with a 2.21 goals-against average.

Gag’s save percentage was .920, with Esser at .910. Esser had three shutouts, while Gag had two.

“Their stats were almost identical, but at the end of the year I went with Kyle,” Neumann said. “But this year I have no idea who we will go with.”

While New Ulm is strong on the defensive side of the ice, the Eagles also can flex their muscles on offense.

“We have a good group of forwards in Braxton Hoffmann (17 goals and 30 assists), Noah Wilmes (11-3), Kedar Schmitz, Kyden Wenisch, Keagan Schiro (6-11), Jace Addy (3-6), A.J. Arneson (7-14), who are all seniors and they all played big minutes for us,” Neumann said. “We also have some new players on the varsity like Blake Soukup, who had a good bantam season for us and he will play a lot of minutes for us this year as a sophomore.”

With all of those players returning. Neumann said that in his six seasons as head coach, this year’s team is the most veteran team that he has had to start a season.

“I am looking forward to the season,” he said. “This has been a season of ups and downs already with a lot of uncertainties. We are hoping to get to play because we are going to have a very successful season.”

Neumann said the team doesn’t have a weak spot.

“From top to bottom, we do not have a weak spot,” Neumann said. “Braxton (Hoffmann) had quite a few points last year and the others contributed, but this year I am looking for them to score some points. We will be a balanced team scoring-wise.”

Neumann said that when you see the Eagles in the offensive zone this season, you may be confused.

“You are not going to know who is playing forward and who is playing defense,” he said. “We are implementing some new systems going into this year because of the talent that we have. So we expect our defensemen to be in the rushes and the forwards to step back for them. You are going to see a new offense from us as well that we are excited to run and think that we will have good success with it.”

Neumann looks for Litchfield, Hutchinson, Marshall and New Um as section picks.


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