After battling through a season full of challenges, the Aberdeen Cougars are ready to see what the postseason holds as the boys’ state varsity hockey tournament gets under way Friday at the Larson Ice Center in Brookings.
The eighth-seeded Cougars will face the host squad and top-seeded Rangers in Friday’s opening-round game at 8:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Seventh-seeded Mitchell is the defending state champion. The championship game is 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Aberdeen coach Jon Murdy said Brookings is a quality team. “They don’t do anything too flashy, but they have five guys who can skate and work really well together.”
The Cougars have not faced the Rangers since the beginning of the season.
“The first time, we lost to them by one,” Murdy said. “The second time, (at a tournament) in Eden Prairie (Minn.), they beat us quite handily.”
Brookings won a third game as well. However, Murdy said when his Cougars are playing well, he has confidence the team can be successful.
“I feel our team can beat anyone in the state as long as our kids put in the effort to play,” Murdy said.
The Rangers come in having scored 136 points in league play and surrendered 39. The Cougars have tallied 55 goals and allowed 136.
Scoring leaders for the Cougars this season have been Thomas Hogg, Kevin Birkla and Cameron Huff. Aberdeen lost the services of Dustin Santjer after he suffered a concussion in practice.
“He was our assistant captain, and always had a good voice with the team,” Murdy said of Santjer.
Goalkeeping duties have been shared by Nick Dalchow and Jon Loefke. Murdy took over head coaching duties in December and is assisted by Jeremy Wasem. Murdy said the Cougars have worked to overcome adversity this season, but hopefully have turned the corner.
“Lately, they are putting things together better and are a little more disciplined,” Murdy said. “The kids are more responsible. They are learning that you have to play hard to get a win.”
Facing the number-one seed will be a daunting task, but Murdy feels good things can come out Friday’s game.
“When we play physical, that’s when we play our best,” Murdy said. “If we sit back and let them get physical, that’s when it goes south for us. We have to start and finish every period that way.”
|BOYS’ STATE CHAMPS|
2012, Mitchell. 2011: Pierre. 2010: Rapid City Rushmore.
2009: Sioux Falls Flyers; 2008: Sioux Falls Flyers; 2007, Watertown; 2006, Mitchell; 2005: Brookings; 2004: Brookings; 2003: Brookings; 2002: Sioux Falls Blue; 2001: Sioux Falls Blue; 2000: Sioux Falls Blue;
1999: Sioux Falls Blue; 1998: Brookings; 1997: Sioux Falls Flyers; 1996: Watertown; 1995: Aberdeen; 1994: Sioux Falls Flyers; 1993: Huron; 1992: Aberdeen; 1991: Huron; 1990: Huron;