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Steel already planning for next season

NEW ULM — And now the work begins.

New Ulm Steel head coach and General Manager Zach Stepan’s 2020-21 season ended Sunday night with a 4-2 loss to Willmar at the New Ulm Civic Center in an NA3HL game.

The loss closed out the Steel’s record at with nine wins on the year.

“It is time to start rebuilding early and get with the city,” Stepan said. “COVID put a stop to a lot of that which no one can control. But at the same time it puts a lot of work back on our plates to start getting people excited again about New Ulm Steel hockey. This season was not what we wanted but I will defend that and say that we were a very young team and had started a rebuilding stage so I am excited about what we can bring next season.”

One of the things off-ice that Stepan wants to rekindle is the community involvement of Steel players in New Ulm that was stopped last season because of the COVID shutdown.

“I believe that it is very important for these young men to experience that but at the same time I had to be smart with their health and our health this year,” he said. “We want to be more involved on off-ice things.”

On the ice, Stepan said that rebuilding a Junior Hockey team is easy.

“But we were able to bring in a good core of younger players and present them with a lot of opportunities. We did lose two of our younger players (Zach Mallette and Parker Dorn, both 18 yeas old) when they got called up to Chippewa (of the North American Hockey League). They both have two more years of Junior Hockey left.”

Stepan said that the Steel franchise is focused on player development.

“We do not want to go out and get 20 players who are going to age out after a year to help us win a championship,” he said. “I think that part of us having a [NAHL] affiliate team [in Chippewa] we led the league in moving players up.”

And Stepan will be busy this summer watching Showcase hockey tournaments.

“In two weeks I will be in Nashville and then two weeks after that I will be in Columbus, Ohio and the week after that I will be in Anaheim so I will be all over the country looking to recruit players,” Stepan said. “But at the same time I will not be forgetting the kids that we have around here. I am hoping to bring in some help here soon to help me with the Minnesota stuff. We do have a good core group and if we get a good chunk of them back for next year we will be in good shape.”

Stepan said that being a younger coach can be an advantage when he recruits potential players as he wears the hats of a coach as well as a General Manager.

While he wants to see players move up in their playing careers, he knows that winning can also make him a candidate to potentially move up.

“I want to move up to because like any other job you want to be promoted and I want to continue to move up and the best way for me to do that is not only win but to move players up from my team in development.”

And Stepan is also looking for a full-time assistant coach among other things.

“We will be hiring a full-time business manager and I am looking to bring on more scouts,” he said. “So from an organization standpoint we will have more people on-board to help with the day-to-day stuff. I have a lot of irons in the fire but being a full-time employee of the New Ulm Steel I can put 110% into it.”

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