Skating short-handed has been an issue for the Viroqua boys hockey team in recent seasons, but with the graduation of just three seniors from last year’s squad and the infusion of nine incoming freshman, the future looks bright for the 2017-18 season and beyond.
Not only are the Blackhawks adding solid numbers to this year’s team, but according to coach Kyle Hall, “These nine new players have a lot of talent. It’s great to have a full bench this season and that should help us not wear down so much in games and have more fresh legs to compete with other teams that have strong numbers.”
Last year’s team, which finished the season with just three victories, played most of the year with just three defensemen and barely two forward lines, making it very difficult to compete for three periods with teams sporting a trio of defensive lines and at least three forward lines.
Lost to graduation from last year’s team were four-year varsity starter Dalton Hoffland, who led the team in points from his defensive position, and Christian Ellefson (forward) and Austin Larson (forward/defense).
Hall, entering his eighth season as VHS head coach, welcomes four seniors to this year’s team, including defensemen Brendan Hoffland and Sam Berg, forward Jason Mischler and goal-tender Carter Bergdahl.
When asked about the strengths of this year’s squad, Hall said, “Goaltending, with Carter Bergdahl in net. Carter (a starter since his freshman year) played every minute of every game last season and always finds ways to keep us in games. We look forward for Carter to have an outstanding senior year.”
“Our biggest challenge will be to create more offense and put up more goals,” Hall said. “Teams are going to score on us, we need to keep pace and try to even up shots on net with teams and be hungry for the puck with no hesitation. I’m not saying we are going to win ten games or anything, but I expect we will be more competitive than we have been for a while, I’m really excited for the season.”
Hall, who will be joined by fellow VHS hockey alums Justin Halverson and Brendan Karlstad as assistant coaches, said this team looks to three mottos for the season: “(1) Stay positive and play together as a team. (2) Every day push yourself to work harder, improve your game and be the better conditioned team. (3) Look to the future not the past.”
The Viroqua-hosted co-op consists of athletes from Westby, Cashton and Viroqua high schools.