HOCKEY WRAP Lakers start and end season well
It was a season of learning for the Detroit Lakes boys' hockey team, which entered its 2011-12 season with an extremely youthful lineup.
Add in some injuries to some of their more-experienced players, and there were some ruts in the ice hit by the Lakers, who finished with a record of 10-15-0.
But the Lakers did put up solid bookends to the season, by starting solid at 5-5 and ending it going 3-2 in their final five games.
But a rough month of January saw the Lakers go 2-8, which included an eight-game losing streak.
"We got hit by some illness, losing senior defenseman Derick Brehm for eight games," said DL head coach Chris Denardo. "Losing him killed our defense, it's not a coincidence we went 1-7 without him."
The Lakers started out with a potent first line of senior Alex Mason and juniors Austin Rusness and Connor Collins, while first-year freshman goalie MacKenzie Steele played all but seven minutes between the pipes.
Mason led the Lakers with 38 points, which included 14 goals and 24 assists, while Rusness was the team's leading goal scorer with 17, while adding 11 assists.
"To sum the season up, we had a lack of scoring, we just didn't have the dogs we have had in the past scoring goals," Denardo said. "We also just had a youthful lineup, who were learning."
Mason became the focal point for opponents' defenses, which stymied the big, physical forward to a slow start to the season.
But Rusness was a benefactor of all the attention on Mason, as he bolted out to a strong start by scoring goals.
"Austin benefited playing with Alex on that line, but Alex was still a big leader on the ice and he still had 38 points on the season," Denardo said. "I thought he had a fantastic season, even though the defenses kept pounding on him every night.
"By January, Alex really started to pick his scoring up, after figuring out ways to create more space on the ice."
Rusness missed four games, but still was a consistent scorer, after having a learning season last year.
"Austin took the bull by the horns and buried the goals he wasn't last year," Denardo added.
The Lakers also will have a solid contingent of scoring coming back in players such as Wilson Lysford, Taylor Magnuson (six goals), Casey Paskey (seven goals) and Michael Herrmann, among others.
The defensive unit was hit by the injury of Brehm, while physical defender senior Ethan Brekke still was an integral piece to the backend of the ice.
Kyle Herrmann also came on strong, as did junior Isaac Fondrick, who will be one of the few returners on defense.
Collins also will be a key returner after gaining plenty of seasoning on the ice and accumulating 22 points off of 15 assists and seven goals.
"Connor is a 100-percent go-go-go type of player," Denardo said. "We need that kind of energy on the ice."
The Lakers will also lose the playmaking ability of Nick LeTourneau, who gave speed and quickness.
"The defense will be hit the hardest, it will be interesting what we can bring there next year," Denardo said.
One position Denardo can count on to be filled is goaltender, where Steele had to learn through the baptism by fire method.
Steele held his own as a freshman, despite fighting fatigue later in the season.
He finished 10-15 with an 86.2 save percentage.
"We are strictly thinking about the future with Mack," Denardo stated about Steele. "He had to fight through the fatigue factor. But Mack went 4-2 heading into the playoffs, so he found his groove and finished strong."
Denardo said Steele also built up his confidence throughout the season, a factor which will be key heading into next season.
The Lakers will also have the benefit of having up to five weeks of ice time inside Kent Freeman Arena during the summer, after the closing of the International Hockey School.
"We'll need a good offseason of work, because we won't have any superstars, instead a team full of blue-collar players," Denardo said.
The 2011-12 Detroit Lakes boys' hockey team stats: Record -- 10-15.
Offensive stats (g-asst-pts) -- Alex Mason 14-24-38; Austin Rusness 17-11-28; Connor Collins 7-15-22; Kyle Herrmann 10-9-19; Ethan Brekke 2-11-13; Taylor Magnuson 5-6-11; Casey Paskey 2-7-9; Wilson Lysford 5-3-8; Derick Brehm 2-4-6; Nick LeTourneau 3-2-5; Michael Herrmann 0-4-4; Sam Velde 0-2-2; Isaac Fondrick 1-1-2; Jacob Fritz 1-0-1; Braedon Householder 1-0-1; Dylan Bremseth 0-1-1.
Goaltender stats (gp-w-l-tie-sog-sv-percentage) -- MacKenzie Steele 25-10-15-0-754-650-86.2.