Even though the Viroqua cooperative boys hockey team lost nine strong seniors, it has gained nine new players with a lot of talent for the 2018-19 season.
“Our new freshman and sophomores have great skating and shooting ability and we see them making a big impact on the team this season,” said Kyle Hall, who has been coaching for eight years. “We have more depth this year than in many previous seasons, which will allow us to play more lines throughout the game and not be so tired during the game. The guys have already shown a lot of chemistry and support for each other which will only make us stronger and help us continuously get better and achieve more goals.”
The team, which had a record of 4-17-2 last season, lost goalie Carter Bergdahl to graduation.
“Carter had been our starting goalie the last four years,” Hall said. “He was a captain and leader for our team. Carter kept us in many games last season making save after save to help give us a chance to win and keeping games close for us. He was second team all-conference last year.”
Top returning players for the upcoming season include senior forward Nick Paduano, who, Hall said, “brings experience and leadership and we look for him to put up some points and have a very solid senior year.”
Forward Jake Krause is also returning. “With Jake’s skating, shooting and ability to make moves around guys and get the puck to the net, we see him being one of our top point leaders on the team this season.”
Defensemen Jacob Ellefson also takes to the ice again this season. “Jacob is a strong and physical player that we will be relying on a lot this season. He will play a key role in keeping pucks away from our goal and leading our new young defensemen,” Hall said.
What does Hall see as the team’s strengths this season?
“Our team’s chemistry and the drive our players have to want to get better and stronger and achieve more goals,” he said. “We have a great group of guys that are willing to listen and learn and put the effort in to make themselves better individually and for the team.”
He said the team’s biggest challenge is its inexperience and speed against larger schools “that are loaded with upperclassmen.”
“With only one division in the state and larger schools that continue to co-op together we will always have a disadvantage and challenge of playing them.”
Hall said he’s telling the skaters to stay positive and play together as a team. “Everyday push yourself to work harder, improve your game and be the better conditioned team. Learn from our mistakes and use those mistakes to get better and not get down on ourselves.”
Assistant coaches are Justin Halverson and Brendan Karlstad.