BY DAVID PEDERSEN
The Delano-Rockford boys hockey team will defend its Wright County Conference title with reinforcements.
The task will be a challenge after losing 10 varsity leaders, including Ryan Pinoniemi, who was named team most valuable player, All-Conference, AP All-State honorable mention and was selected to play in the Great 8 All-Star tournament. Seven others earned All-Conference awards.
The past two seasons, Delano-Rockford advanced to the semifinals of the Section 2A tournament that includes state powers Breck and Blake. Last year the team was 19-8 overall.
“We have a limited number of returning letter winners this season, so we look for some newcomers to have an impact,” said coach Steve Brown. “Overall, we have good team speed up front. We figure to be able to forecheck effectively and have decent offensive punch on the rush. We will need our young defensive corps to mature quickly.”
Key returning forwards include: senior Adam McLain and Eric Ylitalo, plus juniors Jack Nelson and Justin Oja. Back on defense are seniors Mike Krueger and Josh Dzurik and junior Grant Prinsen.
Joining the varsity are goalie Aaron Grangroth and forward Chet Halonen. Brown said prospects to keep an eye on are goalie Brett Norling and defender Nate Meyers.
“In goal we have no varsity experience,” adds Brown. “Our goaltenders are athletic and mentally tough, so we are optimistic about our possibilities in the position.”
The varsity roster was not set when this issue went to press.
Brown said teams to beat in the conference are Orono, Mound-Westonka and Holy Family Catholic. Add Breck to these teams to get top section foes.
Delano-Rockford opens the season 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23 against Waconia at the Blake Tournament. The team plans again Saturday, Nov. 24 against a team and time to be announced.
The first home games at Delano Area Sports Arena are 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, against Chanhassen and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, against Providence Academy.