Kade Nielsen is off to a fast start on the ice.
The senior forward on the Burnsville boys hockey team registered eight goals and five assists in the Blaze’s first four games, including scoring four times in the team’s 6-3 South Suburban Conference win at Eagan Jan. 16.
Nielsen seems to be an under-the-radar talent in the state. He wasn’t even mentioned in the Star Tribune’s preseason all-metro team, despite leading Burnsville in points last year with 48 (24 goals, 24 assists).
Nielson’s 13 points ranked him tied for eighth in the entire state through four games. His eight goals ranked him tied for third.
The Blaze won 17 games last year (17-9-2 overall), getting to the Section 3AA title game. St. Thomas Academy ended the Burnsville’s state hopes with a 2-0 win in the finals.
It was the Blaze’s eighth section title appearance since 2007. The program won the Section 5AA crown in 2007 over Holy Angels, and followed by making five finals appearances in Section 2AA between 2008 and 2015, but lost all five to Edina.
Burnsville was in the Section 3AA crown in 2016, beating St. Thomas Academy 7-1.
Starting with Nielsen, the Blaze has the talent back to make another strong playoff run this winter. The team has split its first four SSC games, including a 5-3 win over Eastview Jan. 21.
Burnsville’s losses are 4-3 to Rosemount Jan. 14 and 6-3 to Prior Lake Jan. 23.
The Blaze’s schedule will consist of just 18 SSC games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The regular season ends March 13 at Lakeville South.
The section playoffs follow, but will there be a state tournament?
The Minnesota State High School League will decide Feb. 4 at its next board of directors meeting if there will be state play for all winter activities. There were none for fall sports.
Third-ranked St. Thomas Academy will be the team to beat again in Section 3AA, followed by Rosemount and the Blaze.
Nielsen had two goals and two assists in the win over Eastview (a section foe), while senior Jack Holmstrom had the hat trick for Burnsville.
Junior Thomas Dundon had two goals and an assist in the loss to Prior Lake and had a pair of assists against Eagan. Senior Zach LaMotte finished with two goals against Rosemount.
Senior Joe Faith is back to help anchor the Blaze’s defense. He recorded four assists in the first games. Junior Pierce Konrath has made the first four starts in goal, recording an .870 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Nielsen had recorded at least two points in each of Burnsville’s first four games. He scored twice against Eastview and had a goal against both Prior Lake and Rosemount. He had two assists against both Prior Lake and Eastview and one against Rosemount.
This is Nielsen’s third season on the varsity. He was third on the team in points as a sophomore with 29 (12 goals, 17 assists).
Nielsen played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this past fall, which was founded in 2007. The league’s goal is to give the state’s top players another way to face top-flight competition and get more exposure without leaving their homes or missing all of the great experiences that high school hockey provides.
Nielsen has also signed a tender to play for the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League.