The top priority of the Tomah High School boys hockey team is clear: score goals.
Last year’s team struggled to put pucks into the net, and it undermined a season during which the defense and goaltending were competitive. Tomah coach Todd Kirschbaum will try to construct an offense with only one returnee who scored more than 10 goals last season.
“We don’t have much experience at forward,” Kirschbaum said. “We’re doing a lot of teaching right now. They give us what they have.”
The leading returning scorer from last season is senior Noah Nick, who compiled 14 goals and two assists last season. He’ll be joined at the forward spot by seniors Jesse Johnson, Wade Miller, Jordan Smith, Seth Taylor and Dylan Alden; juniors Brady Fisher, Dylen Pierce, Roy Henry and Cahill Arity; sophomores Matthew Holtz and Eric Wilcox-Borg; and freshmen Boone Mathison, Mitchell Erickson and Cole Gerke.
There is more experience on defense, which Kirschbaum calls a “pretty solid group.” He will rotate seniors Dalton Prielipp and Nate Hausman, junior Jagger Hammer and sophomore Dawson Ollendick. Kirschbaum moved Hammer from forward to defense and said “he has made leaps and bounds in terms of size and ability.”
The goaltenders are senior Sam Peterson, junior Paul Vender and freshman Gavin Hammer. Vender started last season and gave up just three goals a game. He posted a save percentage of .907.
Vender begins this year on the injured list, but Kirschbaum said Peterson is a capable replacement.
“We have two starting goaltenders,” Kirschbaum said. “That is the strength of our team. We just have to give Sam and Paul some help.”
Numbers are a problem for the program. Kirschbaum anticipated 27 out for the team, but just 22 signed up. With just three freshmen on the roster, it’s likely Tomah will co-op with Sparta next season to keep both programs viable. Tomah won’t field a junior varsity squad.
“We’re pretty thin,” Kirschbaum said.
Kirschbaum says the players who are left are working hard at practice.
“I like the attitude,” Kirschbaum said. “That part is fun.”
He said the goals of the team are “to be competitive in every game” and finish with a winning record. Tomah won five of its first seven matches last season but finished with a 6-18-0 overall record.
Kirschbaum’s assistant coaches are Oakley Moser Jr. and Duncan Peterson.
MVC BOYS HOCKEY
Final 2016-17 standings