NEW ULM - For hockey fans that needed to have their itch for some early pre-season hockey scratched, you needed to be at the New Ulm Civic Center Saturday for a Section 3A scrimmage that ran from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Six of the nine teams in the section were in attendance with Redwood Valley, Worthington and Luverne declining the invitation to the scrimmage that brought a good crowd of hockey fans from New Ulm and out of town.
"We like to do this every year," New Ulm coach Erik Setterholm said. "We have a great facility to host it - we have scrimmages going on from 8 in the morning until 4 p.m. Some of the teams brought along their JV, so it worked our nice for everyone with the two sheets of ice being used all day."
Setterholm said that the pre-season scrimmage is something that he would like to host every year.
"It is a pretty central location and a great facility," Setterholm said. "I am definitely open to doing this every year or at least throwing the offer out to the teams in the section. They all really wanted to come."
When asked if the scrimmage may be setting the stage for a hockey tournament at the Civic Center, Setterholm said it could be a possibility.
"We could do that, but it would take some other organization to take it and run," he said. "And I would not even say the New Ulm Hockey Association - a lot of the tournaments that we go to are run by local clubs. The Kiwanis run the tournament in Rochester and they take care of everything. That would need to be done, because there is a lot of work to be done in getting teams to commit."
Scrimmages help young Eagles
Setterholm said that in earlier scrimmages on Nov. 17 in Owatonna against Woodbury, Shakopee and Mankato East and Saturday's scrimmages against Hutchinson, Litchfield and Windom, he saw a difference in his team.
"I could tell the difference here with just that one more week on the ice," Setterholm said. "People are starting to jell a little bit better and play more as a unit rather than as individuals. Our puck movement was really good against Litchfield. It is just getting the kids familiar with one another."
Kraus lone goalie
For now, Brach Kraus is the lone Eagle varsity goalie, with Matt Berkner still recovering from a broken arm suffered while playing football.
"Cody Banal will be playing goalie for most of the JV games probably all year long," Setterholm said. "We only have two goaltenders. Brach is going to be the guy. I know for a fact that Matt is chomping at the bit to get back on the ice. But with his injury, that may be a while - it will probably be after the first of the year."
Setterholm has been rotating six different players on defense.
"We have three seniors who are playing defense," Setterholm said. "We have Chad Ludewig and Nick Larson, who did not see a lot of time on the varsity level, so they are getting up to speed. Mitch Neid, who was also hurt in football, is back, and just having him here is big with his experience from last year."
One of the Eagles' lines will probably have a mix of senior, junior and sophomore class members on it in Blake Neumann, Judd Davis and Wyatt Peterson.
"They are all fast and I really like the way that they have played in the scrimmages," Setterholm said. "But the three lines that we have used in our scrimmages have all played well."
Setterholm said that he does not want to go with just two lines.
"One of the biggest things that we have going for us over the last four or five years is depth," he said. "You have to have faith in the third line. Not many teams can win at the end of the year going with two lines. Sometimes you may have to shorten the bench in the third period if you are down by a goal. I like to have a third line that can go up against an opponent's third line and shut them down."
Setterholm said that he has been impressed by defenseman Lucas Heiderscheidt.
"I watched him play last year as a bantam and he is going to be a good player," Setterholm said. "He has secured a spot on the varsity. And Alex Stark has also played solid. We graduated a lot of defensemen last year, so we do have some questions there."
Setterholm will begin to get some answers when the Eagles open up their season at Northfield tonight. The match will have a 7:30 p.m. start.